Less than two weeks after announcing tentative high school sports schedules for the 2020-21 academic year, the New Mexico Activities Association made its first revision.
On July 24, the NMAA amended the sports calendar it released on July 15, delaying cross country and fall golf to October 5. The two sports had been tentatively scheduled to start in mid-September.
The tentative dates for the cross country state championships is Dec. 4-5. The golf state championships are tentatively set for June of 2021.
NMAA executive director Sally Marquez said on the association’s website that the revision was in response to the governor’s announcement to delay in-person learning to September.
“It’s just shifted a little bit,” Marquez said in a video on the NMAA website, referring to the cross country and golf schedules. She said the revision doesn’t change the NMAA’s goal of playing school sports in the 2020-21 school year.
The NMAA also sent an email on July 24 to coaches and athletic directors detailing a new set of guidelines specific to cross country meets, with a disclaimer stating that the guidelines are subject to change as per the governor’s orders.
The first thing listed on the guidelines is a restriction limiting the number of people allowed at cross country meets to 100, including athletes, coaches, and event workers. No spectators will be allowed at competitions.
The 100-participant limit, combined with the revised start date, impacts East Mountain High School’s annual Nick Martin Memorial Invitational.
The Nick Martin Memorial meet hosts around 20 schools and hundreds of distance runners every year in late-September.
In an email to The Independent, East Mountain principal Trey Smith said, “We are looking to reschedule [the Nick Martin Memorial meet] at some possible dates in October, pending public health regulations at the time.”
Some of the NMAA’s other cross country guidelines include wearing masks or face shields by everyone in attendance, including runners during competition. A doctor’s note is required for exemption and masks cannot be removed during competition and thrown on the course.
Team camps congregating under canopies—a common practice at cross country meets—are eliminated at competitions and all teams must remain in their busses or cars until it is time to warm up and get ready for their races. Teams may not show up at the starting line earlier than 15 minutes prior to the start of the race; following each race, teams must immediately cool down and return to their busses or vehicles.
Courses must be a minimum of six feet wide throughout the entire length, starting lines must provide six feet of spacing between teams to allow for proper social distancing, and there should be no finish-line chute at the end of the race to prevent gathering at the finish line.
In addition, awards ceremonies should not take place after races or at the conclusion of the event in order to prevent mass gatherings.
Area high school coaches had mixed responses to the NMAA’s schedule revision and cross country guidelines.
“It’s going to be strange in every regard,” East Mountain’s cross country head coach Dave Naylor said. “We’ll do what we can to try and get ready, but even that is going to be a challenge. It’ll be what it’ll be—if we can have a season, we’ll try, but I have doubts it’s going to be injury-free. Hard times for kids these days in that regard.”
Estancia High School head cross country coach Adrienne Pierce said that she was expecting if the schedule was going to get changed, it would be delayed until 2021, like basketball, football, and soccer.
“When I saw we were only delayed two weeks, I was like, ‘Oh, sweet,’” Pierce said, adding, “We’re all in the same boat, everybody’s in this new territory and we’re all just trying to figure it out together.”
Moriarty High School’s head cross country coach Tommy Negrete, who has been holding summer workouts twice a week for about six weeks with a handful of distance runners, said he’s staying positive about the schedule but has concerns about the mask-wearing requirement.
“I don’t mind them exercising with a mask on, but when they’re out running, it’s hard,” Negrete said, adding, “We’ll be ready when the season starts, that’s all we can do.”
East Mountain’s golf coach Crystal Wood, who said she’s anticipating at least 20 kids for her team, said she is OK with the schedule change.
“It’ll be short, but I feel like it’s better than nothing,” Wood said. “We’ve been told to be prepared for it to change again.”