Both teams are excited to be able to compete and their results show it.
At the Cottonwood Challenge, the women’s team placed fifth and the men first. At the Bethel Invite, the women placed second and the men third.
Freshman Kevin Chemalmal from Eldoret, Kenya, has placed in the top 10 at both meets this year. He placed eighth at the Cottonwood Challenge with a time of 28:01 and seventh at the Bethel Invite with a time of 26:00.
He has enjoyed his time on the team so far and is thankful that despite COVID-19, his team is able to compete.
“It is satisfying to know that the team practice we have been doing every day does not go to waste because if we would have missed this season we would have had to wait until September next year,” he said.
Coach Josh Schepis said that despite COVID-19, he expected cross country meets to continue this semester. “It’s logical to me because in cross country you can be anywhere from 20 feet to half a mile away from the next competitor.”
That’s not to say that this year has looked the same as the past, however.
Schepis is taking as many precautions as he can during practices and meets. He has kept the men’s and women’s teams separated at all times so that if anyone falls ill it will affect fewer runners. The two teams travel separately and all runners wear masks when traveling in vans together and get daily temperature and symptom checks.
Due to spring track events, it would be impossible to push the cross country season to next semester. “It’s a ‘now or never’ thing,” said Schepis. “If my athletes weren’t able to compete this semester, they wouldn’t have a season at all.”
The teams’ season started a week later than scheduled. “We didn’t exactly have a season at first,” said junior Marcela Martinez. “Weeks later, Coach Schepis emailed us saying our season was back on so we started practicing harder the following week. Not everyone was ready physically and mentally,” she said.
Martinez said as the only athletic team allowed to compete, she’s felt the pressure to perform this season.
Martinez finished 10th at the Bethel Invite with a time of 20:09 and 17th at the Cottonwood Challenge with a time of 21:39.
She said the team is taking COVID precautions seriously in order to keep their season going.
Schepis is thankful for Athletic Director Joanna Pryor and Athletic Trainer Cam Clark who have worked closely with the team to make sure their season is safe and a success.
Clark has been testing 25% of the cross country team each week for COVID-19. He and Pryor, along with others in the athletic department, have been very helpful and supportive throughout the season.
Schepis said the running portion of meets is exactly the same as before, but everything surrounding it is different.
At the meets, all schools warm up separately and there is no award ceremony to follow. Coaches must present a COVID sheet and do a symptom check that includes taking each athlete’s temperature once they arrive.
Athletes are asked to wear masks until the moment before the gun goes off to start the race.
Schepis is pleased with his teams this season saying the men have gotten a lot more talented. He’s adding four new members to the team and has six returning top performers.
The women’s team is young, he said, and gaining a lot of experience. Martinez and senior Lauren Nutting are placing well at meets. Both helped lead the team to second place wins at their two meets this season.
Though no official MIAA championship competitions will take place, Newman will host an event Oct. 30 that includes students from all MIAA teams, some of which will be running unattached.
On Nov. 14, NCAA DII runners who would have qualified for the national tournament that isn’t being held this year will compete instead at an event at Lubbock Christian University.
Schepis said, “The athletes are having to make sacrifices to participate and I can’t tell any difference at all in their effort and that’s just pleasing to a coach.”
Runners will compete next at mid-states on Saturday, Oct. 24, in Winfield, Kansas.
Basketball will be the only other sport competing this semester and is slated to play Pittsburg State University Nov. 19, 2020.