Updated: Feb 26, 2020
What’s wrong with this scenario? If you look at the Foot Locker Cross Country website (https://www.footlockercc.com/) and scroll down to the regional championships, you will see that the Northeast, South and Midwest Regions all take place the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Scroll a little further, and you’ll notice that the West Region, in which Californians participate, happens one week later. Two questions should immediately jump to your mind: 1) why is our region one week later, and 2) what effects might this have on our athletes?
The answer to the first question is obvious to anyone who falls under the jurisdiction of the California Interscholastic Federation. It certainly has nothing to do with the 2019 state championship schedule of Alaska (10/5), Arizona (11/16), Hawaii (11/2), Idaho (11/2), New Mexico (11/9), Oregon (11/9), Utah (10/23), Washington (11/9), and Wyoming (10/26), the other states that participate in the West Region. In fact, looking at this list, one may be tempted to be in utter shock at how late Arizona is compared to the other states. That is, until they see the 2019 CIF State Finals date (11/30). I mean, seriously, does California need to hold its state championship two weeks after Arizona? To argue that we have more heat than Phoenix or Tucson is laughable. In fact, having coached in South Florida for five years, where we dealt with not only heat, but also high humidity, I never even really feel hot in the hottest weather SoCal throws at me. The Foot Locker West Region is held up by the Golden Bear State for no good reason whatsoever.
What effects does this have on California runners? This schedule makes our runners have to take on added burdens. All of the states listed above get at least three to five weeks to recover from their state finals all-out efforts in order to put it all out there for Foot Locker. Similarly, these states (with the exception of Arizona) get to participate in the NXN Regional on 11/16, and then have until December 7th to race all-out in the NXN finals. There have been a lot of California teams that were talented enough to win CIF and NXN, but if you look at how they did it, a lot of times it was because they were so incredibly talented that they did not need to run all-out at CIF Finals. Good for them, but in a year where there are evenly matched teams from multiple states plus heavy competition in CIF, those teams will not fair so well. Whether you are talking NXN or Foot Locker, the added burden we place on our runners is real. A team that might win NXN or an individual that might win Foot Locker can effectively be eliminated because of the burden the CIF schedule puts on their bodies.
Also, the fact that our state puts nine other states into the disadvantage of having to run two all-out efforts in two consecutive weeks in order to participate in Foot Locker is unconscionable. They should have two weeks, like everyone else, to recover and prepare to give an all-out effort on the national stage. Is it any wonder that no West Region athlete finished in the top ten (out of forty participants in each race) for boys or girls in 2019? They looked a lot better on paper, but their bodies just could not handle the devastating effects of their situation.
I propose that at the very least, California’s cross country schedule should match Arizona’s. Again, you cannot argue that our heat is worse than theirs. This would allow our athletes a level playing field when they hit the national stage, racing either NXN or Foot Locker. It would also allow Foot Locker West to take place the same day as the other three regions, boosting the chances of athletes from ten states to come away with the title of Foot Locker National Champion.