Cross Country Championships Canceled At CIF Section Level

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This article has been updated to include details of the Central Section release, status of other sections, and to news from the state department of public health.

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The CIF-Central Section joined the Southern Section on Tuesday in announcing the cancelation of all section championships in Season 1 sports, which includes cross country.

Cancelation is a result of the COVID-19 pandemic that has resulted in the deaths of more than 33,500 Californians and continues to tax the hospitals in the most populous regions of the state. California has been without high school sports statewide since mid-March, 2020.

Both sections cited the cancelations as a means to maximize the calendar for all schools to be able to compete once allowed to by the California Department of Public Health, county, and school/school district authorities.

The North Coast Section made a similar announcement last week. An update from the San Diego Section is expected by the end of the week.

The Los Angeles City Section on Tuesday, in a memo from Commissioner Vicky Lagos, announced that it still intends to hold a section championship in cross country on March 27, but other Season 1 sports championships in the section were canceled. 

In a memo released Tuesday morning, CIF-SS Commissioner Rob Wigod wrote, in part of cross country, which remains in the state's most restrictive tier (purple): " ... provided the stay at home order is lifted in Southern California, the ability for us to host a Southern Section Championship in one location and have student-athletes from all (seven) counties within the Southern Section footprint be allowed to travel to the single location is not realistic."

The Southern Section oversees 560 schools, by far the largest of the CIF's 10 sections statewide. CIF-SS championships had been scheduled for late March at Mt. San Antonio College. The CIF-State Cross Country Championships, originally rescheduled to March 27, had previously been canceled.

"The time remaining the the Fall Sports seasons can now be utilized by our member schools to schedule contests," Wigod wrote. 

Wigod's release emphasized "we are not canceling the entire seasons for our Fall Sports, we are canceling the portion of the Fall Sports seasons that we have direct control over, Southern Section Championships. Hopefully, the additional weeks now available during the Fall Sports season will be useful to our schools in the effort to have regular season and/or league competition in the time ahead.

"We strongly support our member schools in returning to play, provided the guidelines distributed by the California Department of Public Health, and local health authorities are adhered to. We will continue to do all we can to advocate our position to those entities as well."

The release from Central Section Commissioner Ryan Tos echoed a lot of what was in Wigod's memo.

"While there may be changes in the future, the current CDPH guidance only allows competition between bordering counties, making section championship events impossible," Tos wrote. "This decision opens up additional dates for schools to schedule competition as the CDPH guidance allows."

In CDPH return-to-play guidelines released in December, cross country is one of the few sports allowed to go forward even if a county remained in the purple (widespread) tier -- one of four colored tiers used by the CDPH to grade the impact of the virus in each of the state's 58 counties.

To first move forward, the Southern California Region (which includes Los Angeles City, San Diego and Southern sections -- totaling more than half of the state's high schools) must be freed of the CDPH's Regional Stay At Home Order. That is only possible when four-week projections of the ICU capacity exceeds or is equal to 15 percent. Currently the Southern California Region is at 0.0 percent.

An update later Tuesday indicated no change in county tier status statewide and no change in the regional Stay At Home orders. Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state's secretary of Health and Human Services, addressed the status of youth sports guidance by saying his office continues to work with youth sports leaders, including the CIF, but "obviously the state of the surge and the conditions in many, many of our communities are pretty dire, pretty significant."

The Central Section, located in the San Joaquin Valley Region, includes the following counties: Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Merced, San Benito, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, and Tulare. That region was also at 0.0 percent ICU capacity as of the latest update on the state's COVID-19 website.

Both Tos and Wigod wrote that should cross country be able to move forward with competition, the season must end by Saturday, March 27. 

Wigod wrote that "Spring Sports remain in place with the original schedule we released in July, 2020. Several of our Spring Sports are in the purple tier, which means they can begin as planned, again, provided there is not a stay at home order ... ."

Track and field is scheduled to begin March 20 with section championships in June and the State Finals slated for June 25-26. Track and field is a spring sport cleared to move forward in counties remaining in the purple tier. Currently, 53 of the state's 58 counties are in the purple tier. 

Wigod closed his release with the following:

"Final Thought -- These are extremely difficult times for everyone involved. This may be the darkest period we have experienced through the 10 months of the COVID-10 pandemic. As we look ahead, the holidays are now behind us, although the surge from that time frame is still being felt and is hopefully close to ending. Vaccines are arriving and inoculations are happening every day. Perhaps we will see case rates, hospitalizations and deaths beginng to decrease and relief will come to our health care system. With those developments, the conversations with the Governor's Office, the California Department of Public Health and local health authorities regarding return to play can take on a different tone and real progress could potentially be made. I know you join me in the belief that we must go forward doing everything possible on behalf of our student-athletes."

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MileSplitCA metro editor Steve Brand contributed to this report.