I really didn’t know what to expect when I arrived at the Appleton Golf Course on Thursday for my very first cross country meet of the season. The COVID-19 Pandemic has put a damper on how things are now done. We have guidelines to follow from the Minnesota Health Department and the Minnesota High School League. I arrived early and parked next to the club house. I put my mask on and exited my car.
I collected my radio equipment from my car and made my way towards the golf course. The first thing I noticed was there were more porta potties than usual. Each porta potty had the school name taped on the door, meaning only that group of kids from that school could use that certain porta potty. I met Lac qui Parle Valley’s Activities Director, Tony Smith by the porta potties and he directed me to where I was going to be able to broadcast from. According to the media guidelines I needed to be far away from the finish line and off by myself. I set up my broadcast equipment next to a large evergreen tree. Schools at the meet Thursday were LQPV/DB, Border West, TMB, RTR, and CMC/CCS. Three teams ran at 4pm and 2 teams ran at 6pm.
I have enjoyed broadcasting cross country over the years. It is a great sport, but this year because of COVID, only a couple of teams are allowed at a meet. Usually there are 8 to 10 teams at a meet, which brings in many runners, coaches, parents and fans. The attendance at cross country meets can be 200 to 300 people. But not this year. Following the guidelines from MSHSL, no more than 25 runners may be at the start line, no pre-race handshakes or fist bumps, masks are required if they cannot socially distance at 6 feet from others and spectators are allowed, but they must not have access to athletes and must be restricted to areas outside of the course width. These are just a few of the guidelines to follow. For me, the media guidelines to follow were many. Let’s just say it was different than what I am used to.
I set up my broadcast table far from the finish line. I had let the LQPV/DB runners know before their run where I was located and to come over for a post meet interview. They did just that. I set up a separate microphone on a stand more than 6 feet from me. I interviewed all the boys and girls on the LQPV/D/B team. They did great with the interviews. I also interviewed Julia Schmidt from Border West, she placed 1st and is only an 8th grader. She was nervous to go on the radio, but she did great, her mom kept taking pictures of her while on the radio with me. That made her smile and giggle. I would say covering the cross country meet was a success, but it was sure different in another way.
The most noticeable difference Thursday was that our friend Sarah wasn’t there. LQPV/D/B Coach John Shurb’s wife Sarah passed away unexpectedly last week. Sarah played a major role in helping John with cross country. Her two children run cross country and Josie, their daughter is a senior on the team this year. Sarah was at every meet and always greeted me on the golf course with a smile and thanking me for coming. It has been a really sad couple of weeks. As John said on the Coaches Show Saturday, Sarah would have wanted us to have this meet Thursday; she would have been really upset with us if we cancelled it. Sarah will be so missed. John has created a wonderful cross country program and if you have been part of the LQPV/D/B cross country team over the years as an athlete, parent, or grandparent, you are part of a big cross country family. When one of us hurts, we all hurt. Thursday at the cross country meet was different for many reasons.