Running Past COVID-19

Close up view of the girls warming up at the Hillsboro invitational. Media by Greenville University.

How fast must one go to outrun a pandemic? It’s hardly a secret that college sports are being affected across the country by the coronavirus. Greenville University’s Head Cross Country Coach Brian Patton voices the adjustments and different outlooks due to the virus. The season has been shortened by about three weeks, but that loss of time will bring a difficult preparation upon the athletes. GU’s Cross Country Team will face a demanding and grinding type of season due to all impacts of the coronavirus. Although it won’t be easy, the team has goals and will do everything in their power to achieve them. 

Currently, the team is fortunate enough to start practice while keeping a safe distance and following all CDC guidelines. A true positive for the sport is that the athletes can train alone and separate for practices. Due to the circumstances of the pandemic, there will be no SLIAC season meets this year. However, that will not stop the GU Cross Country Team from striving to become the best and fastest athletes in the nation. Coach Patton proves himself to be a trailblazer as he will be taking matters into his own hands and providing a meet for his athletes. Personally, he hosted a mock meet at the Hillsboro Country Club on September 11th. To compete in this event, the athletes had to run unattached from their schools. Runners could not even wear Greenville University gear as they had to completely run unaffiliated with the university. Other athletes a part of this event consisted of junior college and NAIA competitors. This meet option provided the opportunity to be in season shape and compete at the highest level.

Coach Brian Patton. Media by GU Cross Country.

While they are doing their best to overcome the challenges of this year, Coach Patton and his athletes are still figuring out their strategic approach for this season. Even though three weeks may not seem like a significant amount of time to a lot of people, Coach Patton explains that those few weeks are actually incredibly important. For example, athletes that compete in multiple events have a much more difficult task to face due to the time shortage. The turnaround time for preparing for multiple events will be strenuous and potentially dangerous for these athletes. The SLIAC held a vote if they will still have the conference championship. Ultimately, they decided the event will still take place on March 26th. With this decision, athletes will have to maintain their intense training from now until then. While the steps and strategies to their training will now vary due to the COVID-19 impact, these cross country athletes are prepared to persevere through all of the changes. 

Media by NCCAA.

Achieving goals are never easy, but for this team, their dedication to improving every single day will rise to the top. Despite the changes in strategy, Coach Patton explained this year will ultimately be business as usual. The interesting part about the coronavirus pandemic is things are never certain or set in stone. The cross country team will stay on their toes and ready for anything. Coach Patton explained there could always be a burnout at any time during the year. This intense sport is not for your average athlete, and Coach Patton said, “Distance running isn’t selling ice cream cones or slushies. The runners are exposed at every second and can’t hide in a meet.” At the end of the day, this cross country team is ready to adjust and will be prepared for anything thrown at them. They are led by an extremely well-known and decorated head coach. Coach Patton, a member of the NCCAA hall of fame, is experienced and beyond determined to provide for his athletes. COVID-19 has been creating a new normal for the sports world we live in today. Greenville University Cross Country Team is taking it one day at a time, becoming prepared for the upcoming season. Soon, they will run right past COVID-19.

Media by Turjon McLaurin.


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