After news spread around the state on Friday about the NJSIAA's "Model 1 - Delayed Fall Season" plan, the NJ XC community weighed in with its thoughts.
Under the latest plan, which resulted from ongoing concerns about COVID-19, the XC season would start on Oct. 1 and conclude with the sectional championships. The State Group Championships and Meet of Champions have been eliminated, and the Sectional Championships for Non-Public teams will be added.
All sports are having post-season schedule cuts due to COVID-19, and will conclude after the sectionals championships.
Bill Bruno, the NJSIAA Cross-Counry Tournament Director, said the state is doing everything it can to have some type of season for its student athletes, and hopes to avoid having a repeat of the spring when the season was canceled.
"We are attempting to give our student-athletes in NJ an opportunity to have a regular season, although abbreviated, and still have a goal of competing in our NJSIAA Sectional Championships,'' said Bruno. "We want to have fair and balance competition for all of our member schools during these difficult days.''
Reactions came pouring in from all around the state as coaches shared their thoughts on the NJSIAA's plan.
Here is a look at what some XC coaches are saying....
Christian Brothers Academy Coach Sean McCafferty - "People all over are suffering from illness, loss, unemployment and more. I could not be happier that there is a plan in place to get this small piece of life moving. My team and I will be grateful to get on the course and race anyone willing to join us.
Millburn Coach Jeff Kaye- "I think having some form of season is definitely a positive for the kids. However, I also understand where NJSIAA is coming from. This is a constantly changing situation (and doesn't seem to really be improving...not consistently anyway), and schools are still figuring out how to open. I think school is a priority and some form of athletics is important but secondary. XC seems to be an easy sport for training and running, but we've all seen race starting lines and that first few hundred meters is a swarm of kids. I want to coach and I want the student athletes to be able to compete, but everyone's health and safety is the priority.''
Union Catholic Coach Mike McCabe- "I think any option by the state to have a season is great. The NJSIAAA's effort to create some normalcy for student athletes is to be commended.''
Kingsway Coach Christian Lynch- "Generally, my heart aches for our student-athletes in NJ. Most returners know the ebb and flow of the NJ XC season, and successful teams and individuals are the ones who have figured out best through previous experience how to navigate this journey. This new abbreviated season will keep kids from experiencing some of the "rites of passage" that others have experienced for a long time. From some of the low key rust-buster September meets to the Group/MOC meets, this all has been part of the expected progression for many runners, and, now, this modified schedule will give them a modified experience. That being said, something certainly is better than nothing, and I am so appreciative that the NJSIAA, in conjunction with state and local officials, has put plans into place to give our kids competition options while keeping the welfare and safety of its student-athletes as its greatest priority.
Mendham Coach Roy Hamblen - "(It's) disappointing. They don't know what to do. I think the state expects another spike by then (the state meets) because of what is happening down south. Most of us focus on that part of the season, and it is the most anticipated. My kids are in week four of their season training already and that was designed to focus on the state run. Frustrating.
South Brunswick Coach Wil Rivera - "I think a time table is vital to give coaches an outline to model training to maximize the season based on today's model. Hopefully, this model stays put through 8/28. I was not thrilled about any talks about shortening seasons throughout the 2020-2021 year. The spring athletes have already paid a price and though I would not want that for any season. This plan keeps us on course for winter and spring seasons to proceed hopefully without delays and modifications.''
Red Bank Catholic Coach Rob DeFilippis - "My gut feeling is that eventually we aren' t even going to get to the sectional meet. I think this gives them another month, but then nothing changes with virus and unfortunately that becomes the inevitable. I think Billy Bruno and the state are doing the best they can with trying to give us something, just not sure the system is in place to handle from schooling to busing and everything else that needs to go into this. As a coach, I'm just disappointed obviously for the kids that they won't have the opportunity (at the state meets) to do what they know and enjoy!''
Pope John Coach Brian Corcoran - "I don't envy the mission/task of the NJSIAA committee and respect their experience and efforts in this matter. Personally, I wish a group championship could happen possibly in a staggered / multi-day format. Maybe by the time school commences, the virus will have calmed down enough for a greater opening of competition. Mainly, I am glad that a season will occur for the student-athletes. They deserve a return to normalcy (or as close at least as we can get).''
West Windsor-Plainsboro North Coach Brian Gould- "I have mixed feelings. It's very disappointing to see Groups and MOCs off the schedule, our kids would have been in the mix at those meets. At the same time, it's better to have something rather than nothing. I'm hopeful we do have a season. I don't think that's guaranteed. The kids, the coaches, everyone is really missing this. I think we have gotten to see how valuable high school sports are. I hope we get to see a season play out.''
Middletown South Coach Bill Clifton- "I am honestly heartbroken that all the athletes across the state will not get the opportunity to see their full possibilities and see how far into the season they can achieve. There is nothing like the Group meet or MOC at Holmdel Park in November. I dream about having a team on the start line. I completely understand the state decision, and fully respect Bill Bruno in his actions and realize this is the new normal.....but it still hurts.''