With the chance of a spring season growing, Maryland women’s cross country is ready to run

The Maryland women’s cross country team competes at the 2016 Big Ten Cross Country Championships in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on Oct. 30, 2016. (Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics)

By Collin Riviello
Freelance Reporter

Maryland women’s cross country has spent much of the summer waiting. With COVID-19 bringing postponements and cancellations across the college sports world, cross country has been no exception.

And while Big Ten football is poised to make its long-awaited return on Oct. 23, the same can’t be said about cross country — at least not yet.

The NCAA Division I Council voted in support of a winter cross country season Wednesday. The proposal will be sent to the NCAA Championships Committee for final approval. If passed, this would be the first time in NCAA history that a fall sports season is held in the winter.

It’s a unique proposition, one that raises questions as to how cross country, indoor and outdoor track and field will interact with each other. However, for the Terps, the opportunity to get back on the trails is an enticing one, no matter when it happens.

“I’m definitely willing to do it,” said Sarah Daniels, a junior criminology and criminal justice and sociology major. “We’ve missed an outdoor [track and field] season, and cross country, so anything we can get at this point is very much appreciated.”

[13 Maryland teams resume practices after COVID-19 outbreak among athletes]

The winter season would likely span from January to March, with the national championship meet in mid-March. But numerous factors could impact the feasibility of an outdoor season — especially in the colder winter months.

“Racing in the snow would be interesting, but I’d be a little concerned about if that would make meets more likely to be canceled,” said Sophia Zell, a freshman mechanical engineering major.

Meanwhile, training styles would shift, perhaps also playing into performance during the winter season.

“Cross country training is more taxing than track training, personally. So, a lot more mileage and a lot more longer workouts. So mentally it would be easier to do [an indoor] track season instead,” said Kirstin Nichols, a freshman journalism major.

However, there could be scheduling conflicts between cross country and indoor track. Last year, indoor track ran from Jan. 11 to Feb. 29 before being canceled. The NCAA’s proposed cross country season would take place from Jan. 30 to March 6, with championships scheduled for March 15.

“There is some concern in the membership about conducting cross country, indoor track and field, and outdoor track and field in the spring term,” the NCAA said in Wednesday’s release. “The Division I Competition Oversight Committee will continue to evaluate the issue.”

The Terps aren’t quite sure which way it will go — for an NCAA cross country championship to happen, half of the schools sponsoring Division I cross country must hold a season. Meanwhile, the prospect of concurrent seasons could make for a difficult decision for Maryland’s runners — but the thought of a new season, regardless of when it comes, is motivating them to keep running and staying in shape, they said. Perhaps their wait will be over soon enough.

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