ASU cross country and track and field athletes preparing for unique season

Cross country will take place during the same season as indoor track and field, forcing athletes to compete in one over the other

Athletes on ASU's cross country and track and field teams face a unique predicament this upcoming season from scheduling changes due to COVID-19.

When the NCAA canceled all sports championships in the fall, the decision left a cross country season up in the air unless a change to when the season takes place was made.

The NCAA did just that, with its Division I board of directors approving to hold cross country during the winter season, which is usually when indoor track and field takes place. The overlap created by the change between the two sports means athletes can only participate in one of cross country or indoor track and field but not both. 

Dion Miller, the director of cross country and track and field at ASU, believes that athletes will be ready for a difficult campaign with both teams competing at the same time.

"It will surely be a challenge, but I believe in our athletes," Miller said.

Cross country and track and field athletes usually have the opportunity to participate in all three sporting seasons. Normally, the athletes start the year with cross country, transition into indoor track and field for the winter and then finish with outdoor track and field in the spring.

When asked how COVID-19 has affected training and preparation for the season, Miller said it was still business as usual. 

"Things have not really been disrupted for us, practice-wise," Miller said. "Obviously without any competition, we've just been practicing for the upcoming season which would be starting in the winter, and so we're pretty much just business as usual." 

Megan Reniewicki, a fifth-year senior who competes with cross country and track and field, says that despite there being a green light on a winter season, she is trying to stay cautiously optimistic about there being a season in the first place. 

"That's the one thing that is so different about this season, there's so much unknown," Reniewicki said. "We could be told the NCAA has proposed this cross country season, but in the back of my mind it is hard for me to say 'OK, this is 100% happening.'"

For Reniewicki, running has become a coping mechanism for anxiety and other burdens brought on by the pandemic. 

"It helps me stay focused on the season and training," Reniewicki said. "I know I only have this one last year left, so I didn't want to waste that time. I wanted to make sure I would be prepared for any opportunities that present itself."

Vincent Mauri, a sophomore who competes on both teams, has continued to work to improve despite the absence of a fall season. 

"Even though this has been a rollercoaster, the one main thing that we have to remember is that we are a D1, Pac-12 school," Mauri said. "We came here to run and run fast. That definitely hasn't changed, so we need to have a 'put your head down and run' mentality.

"This has definitely lit a fire in all of us. We lost a season, we can't get it back, so we have to be that much better. 

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated whether athletes could choose to compete in a specific sport. The story has been updated to reflect this change. 


Reach the reporter at aravasio@asu.edu and follow @anthonyravasio on Twitter.

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