Updated: This story was updated to reflect the new start date for cross country, which is Oct. 5. Originally, the season was slated for a Sep. 14 start.
No masks – no cross-country.
On Friday (July 24), the New Mexico Activities Association announced its return to play guidelines for cross-country, and the big news is that all runners who participate in a meet "must wear a mask or face shield during competition."
A doctor's note must be provided for "exemption from wearing a mask or face shield."
"We have to flow with what the governor's orders are," Mae LaBella, Taos High School's new athletic director, said when asked for comment on the mask guideline. "I think there are protocols in place that if an athlete can't wear a mask I think that it'll be addressed. … We are kind of in an uncertain time where we got to do the best that we can to hopefully provide the sports that the kids love to play but doing it in a safe manner. It's difficult."
Cross-country meets will also be limited to just 100 attendees – a much smaller grouping of athletes than usual in cross-country. The attendees are limited to coaches, athletes and event workers. Spectators will not be permitted.
During the regular season, both boys and girls may participate in events side by side, according to the NMAA.
"If a school decided to host a meet and allow the boys and girls of the same school to run in the same race, they may do so," read a portion of the guidelines. It was added that doing so may be more efficient in getting events done quicker.
Team camps – in which participating schools usually set up an area to hang out – will not be allowed.
"All teams must remain in their buses or cars until it is time to warm up and get ready for their races," according to the NMAA. "Following each race, teams must immediately cool down and retreat back to their buses or vehicles."
Courses must be 6 feet wide throughout to accommodate for social distancing; it will also be required that "starting lines must provide 6 feet of spacing between teams to allow for proper social distancing at the start of the race." Teams are asked to show up to the starting line 15 minutes prior to a race, and are asked to not congregate.
There will be no finish line chute in order to deter large gatherings. Awards ceremonies won't take place and instead coaches will be informed at the end of meets of the results.
LaBella said that teams may host more virtual meets.
"I think that will be something new that will come into play for safety, and also for numbers and for control," LaBella said. "It's one of those sports that I think in some ways is a lucky sport that you're able to do that."
In fact, Taos cross-country coach Bruce Gomez said his plan is to host a virtual meet for this season.
"Our home meet is going to be a virtual meet," Gomez said. "Let's say I get 10 teams and they all run a designated distance – which will be 5K – at their home and they can run it wherever they wish and they send me the results of the time, and then I score them and mail them their awards.
"It serves two purposes: They don't have to physically travel and there will be no contact."
Gomez said that scheduling meets – especially ones that are non-virtual – takes a lot of work and manpower. That was part of the reason why he opted for virtual instead.
"Pretty much all schools are on the same boat. They're trying to readjust their schedules right now, and it's not an easy task because you have to set a weekend," Gomez said. "There's a lot of detail you have to pay attention to."
While cross country was originally slated for a Sep. 14 start, the season was moved back to Oct. 5. Volleyball, golf and cross country will all start their respective seasons on the same day, with competition beginning on Oct. 10 – five days later.