This Year's Regulations And What They Mean

If you aren't used to running with a mask yet, that time is coming soon.

Yesterday, I wrote a first article about what this year's new regulations in cross country will mean. I wrote that article specifically with reference to 2A Boys, though 95% of what was written therein could be applied to any classification.

Today, I submit a similar article. The main point of reference will be 2A Girls, but the majority of what is written here applies across the spectrum of classifications.

I would refer you to yesterday's article (see link above) for the content therein. Most of what was written there applies to girls just as much as it does to boys. I won't repeat here what I wrote there. There wouldn't be a second article, however, if there wasn't more to be said.

For girls, we can meaningfully talk about differences between boys and girls for the mask rule, and we can talk at some length about how volleyball imports might impact the girls this fall (much of which could translate into soccer imports for boys--though soccer imports will tend to be limited for smaller schools).

Let's start with a quick look at 2A Girls, in general. If we look strictly at athletes from last year who should be back this year, Academy for Tech and the Classics holds a very strong upper hand. Pecos checks in (solidly) at second, and the other schools--led by Penasco and Rehoboth Christian--fall at some distance behind.

That's if you assume score five.

If, however, we change the parameters to what they will be at state this year (namely, score four), things tighten up slightly. ATC loses a very strong five in the scoring, but still holds a considerable lead. Rehoboth Christian is, on paper at least, the biggest benefactor of moving to score four.

Maggie Rittmeyer won last year and figures to be tough to beat this year. And, though I count Tim Host as a personal friend, I think he happens to know a whole lot about effective coaching even apart from the considerations of friendship. If I lived closer, I'd definitely spend some time taking him out to eat and picking his brain.

Suffice it to say, ATC winning again this year isn't at all a done deal yet, but it's going to take a monster effort to knock them off.

So, having said that, let's discuss the particulars of the rules as they impact girls, and 2A girls somewhat in particular.

Here's what I think I know about the mask rule as it applies to girls: I've seen the noses of the boys on my team this year about an order of magnitude more often than I've seen the noses of my girls. This would, of course, apply only to situations where we are to have our masks up (which aren't all the same as they are in New Mexico this fall).

Without trying to make a sexist point here, there's a difference in mask wearing between boys and girls. Whether that difference has to do with anatomy, with psychological wiring, some combination thereof, or some unseen third factor, I'll leave you to ponder over on your own. I just know there's a difference.

Assuming that difference crosses the state line, that means girls are likely to be impacted more than boys by the wearing of masks this fall. You mark that down, I'll mark that down, and we can revisit the question at the end of the year and see what the data tells us. 

That doesn't, however, answer the question of whether there will be more or less scatter in the differences for girls than the differences for boys. Another interesting question to ponder over!

As long as we're going through this routine, we may as well learn something along the way, no?

While we take a wait-and-see attitude toward the impacts of masks on female runners, we can be a little less speculative now on the differences owing to incoming athletes from other sports.

In New Mexico, there are three other fall sports (none of which are happening this fall), in addition to cross country. There's football. There's boys soccer. And there's volleyball.

Football doesn't figure to add much to the pool of cross country runners, though where it does contribute, it will be mostly in the realm of small schools. This has a lot to do with the fact that most football players count anything over a 40-yard dash as a distance event. 

Soccer will definitely contribute some to the pool of boys cross country runners.

But, what we're interested in at the moment is the contribution of volleyball players. This contribution will be felt most at the 2A level. The larger the school, the more likely it is that the volleyball players will feel the gravitational pull of club volleyball and stay out of cross country altogether. To some extent, this is true of boys soccer as well.

But, most 2A schools exist in places where club volleyball is largely, or completely, a non-factor.

In schools where a good relationship exists between the volleyball and cross country coaches, an influx of volleyball players to the cross country team could make an enormous difference in the school's cross country fortunes for this fall.

At my own school, and we are a well-developed cross country program, we had only one girl make the plunge. Club volleyball is strong in our community. The one girl who made the plunge, however, has been a huge positive impact on our team--just in terms of willingness and enthusiasm alone. She hasn't made our varsity roster this year, but if we were a smaller program she might well have done exactly that. She may have run more in the first two weeks of practice than she had in her entire life, but she was delighted to make the most of the opportunity before her. And we've been delighted to have her.

Psst... she might come back next year!

I am absolutely of the persuasion that we will see some 2A programs rising out of (almost) nowhere to enjoying solid seasons this fall on account of the presence of transplanted volleyball players. It's just hard to know in advance where those programs will arise. Add one or two capable runners to a lot of 2A rosters and you suddenly have a whole lot more competitive teams!

It will be fun to see them arise. Despite the masks, this may be the most interesting fall of 2A Girls cross country yet on account of that.