Competition and endless miles throughout the year is what most runners wouldn’t give up by choice. However, many Nebraska runners have had to deal with the cancellation of both the track and field season in March and the cross country season this fall.
“I put the situation in perspective; human lives are at stake," junior distance runner George Kusche said in back in March on huskers.com, "and my sacrifice, as well as all the other athletes, is miniscule compared to the sacrifices that many others will make in the upcoming weeks, months and years.”
The fate of the fall season was in doubt for months, but the final decision by the Big Ten to postpone fall sports was made on Aug. 11. With it, the 2020 cross country season was over before it even began.
“The news really jarred me,” Nebraska cross country head coach Dave Harris said. “I felt really bad for the seniors. They wanted to have a season because this was their last. We knew it could happen, but it was just an up and down roller coaster.”
The postponement to spring is more challenging for cross country than it is for other sports. Football, volleyball and soccer can return to their sports in the spring if safe. However, the cross country season would overlap with track and field in the spring, making a season unlikely.
“It’s hard for cross country to run in the spring semester,” Harris said. “Track and field is what all of our runners will do, so to have a cross country season in there just wouldn’t work. It’s tough with what’s unknown for the future. No one can tell me what’s going to happen. It’s hard to maintain a positive attitude with that.”
Schools around the country have also had to cut some sports due to the pandemic. The University of Iowa most recently cut four of their 24 programs. However, Nebraska cross country doesn’t rely heavily on the revenue from other sports. With only four regular season meets scheduled each year, the team doesn’t travel often, and when they do, they don’t go far. Last year, the Huskers’ longest trip was to Columbus, Ohio, for the Big Ten Championship. In the regular season, their longest trip was to Indiana, while the other three meets were in neighboring states or in Lincoln.
“We’re a cheap sport. We don’t travel that much,” Harris said. “We don’t have a regular season with 10 meets and a championship. I believe the program will be safe. [Athletic Director] Bill Moos knows the value of all our sports here and all student-athletes.”
Even though the season has been cancelled, that hasn’t stopped the team from continuing to put in work. Most of the team runs track and field as well, so the next few months will be mainly focused on the winter season, according to Harris.
“We’re training,” Harris said. “We didn’t just stop because of the cancellation. We’re trying to be better, and the key is to not give up. We’ll have some races with just our team against each other at a safe distance. We set some goals for this fall to be better, but you got to train and push yourself to do so.”