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Cross country programs able to resume with little change

Cross country teams across the county were able to start summer workouts without much alteration needed as the programs look to follow the Mississippi High School Activities Association’s COVID-19 guidelines.

As a sport, cross country allows for social distancing and minimal contact between athletes, meaning the guidelines now in place have had little effect on how the athletes train.

Picayune Cross Country

Head Coach Chris Wise said his athletes had been in frequent contact with him prior to the resumption of athletic activities on June 1.

Wise said the excitement was palpable and the athletes had done a decent job of staying in shape while out of school.

“The enthusiasm is good and we have a dozen kids out there with me which is wonderful this far in advance of the season.”

“Their fitness seems to be decent at this point, so I’m pleased with where we’re at,” Wise said.

The lack of tryouts wasn’t an issue for Wise because his program doesn’t normally have one.

Instead, workouts serve as the only test needed to determine which athletes want to stay on the team.

“My theory is that they can all come out and the miles are the tryouts. If you can’t make it you don’t stay,” Wise said.

Right now the workouts are focused on increasing endurance and overall fitness, but Wise said in a perfect world the athletes would be able to do some resistance and weight training as well.

However, those opportunities aren’t widely available due to the pandemic, which means the program has to slightly adapt its normal routines while still developing athletes.

It’s one of the many changes COVID-19 has caused in daily life and Wise said he believes there will still be some continued adaptation needed from the sport of cross country when competition resumes.

“They may have to think out how they’re going to deal with people crowding around, like the parents and fans, at the finishing line and when kids are in the box. That might be a problem they’re going to have to think about,” Wise said.

Poplarville Girls Cross Country

Head Coach Beth McShea said her program is not expected to resume until the fall because the team didn’t have its tryouts prior to the school shutting down.

This means the athletes will be expected to work out individually over the summer to stay in shape.

However, there is a silver lining in that a portion of the cross country athletes are also part of the girls soccer team.

Soccer requires athletes to be well conditioned, so McShea said players who are part of the soccer squad will get some conditioning that can be used later for cross country.

“The majority of them played soccer for us, so they’ll be getting in some time while practicing that,” McShea said.