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Albert Lea cross country to host first home meets since ‘01

Due to schedule changes and new guidelines put in place by the Minnesota State High School League in an effort to allow some sports to continue during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Albert Lea boys’ and girls’ cross country teams will host their first home meets in nearly 20 years.

The Tigers will host three meets in the upcoming season, with the locations yet to be determined.  With the guidelines put in place by the MSHSL, the meets will either be dual or triangular meets.

Albert Lea’s head cross country coach Jim Haney said he is excited to finally be able to have some competitions. Along with assistant coach Margo Wayne, Haney said they have been trying to schedule home meets for many years to no avail. However, he is hopeful the school will be able to continue to host meets after the current year.

“I’m talking to Paul Durbahn (Albert Lea’s activities director) and he’s been fabulous about looking to try and add a home meet. He recognizes we haven’t had a home meet in 20-some odd years. He wants to make sure that Albert Lea moms and dads get to see their kids run at home,” he said. “Yeah, we hope to have a meet maybe next year or the year after in a more traditional sense., where we invite Austin and Fairmont, Owatonna and they come down and we have five, six, seven, eight teams running in Albert Lea.”

Haney said he hasn’t been able to meet with his runners this week because it is the non-contact week before the start of practices on Monday, but he expects they will be happy with the chance to run in front of a home crowd.

“Knowing my kids in the past, the captains I’ve had and so forth, they’ve quite often asked for a home meet and I would guess this year’s kids feel the same way,” Haney said. “It’s about time that we have something at home and we’re looking forward to the challenge.

Along with the schedule changes, the cross country teams also have to meet other guidelines and protocols.

Haney said he and the rest of the coaching staff will wear masks throughout the entirety of practices and meets, the students will wear masks whenever inside a building and runners will be split up into groups based on ability and will need to maintain social distancing.

Although only three teams can compete at a time, Haney said the Big Nine will still host a conference meet at the end of the season.

Teams will be given a win-loss record based on their performances against other teams throughout the season. Based on where they rank in the standings, teams will run in four separate heats after which their times will be compiled together.

“COVID is a terrible thing but  out of it, something positive came,” Haney said. “We get to have a home meet. This is something Margo Wayne and I have been working on for a number of years and it’s finally true. We’re excited.”

The Tigers kick off their season with a home meet Aug. 27 when they host the Wingers of Red Wing. The second home meet is scheduled for Sept. 17 and the final home meet will be Oct. 1. Locations are yet to be determined.  Spectators will be allowed at the events as long as they follow social distancing guidelines.

About Tyler Julson

Tyler Julson covers sports for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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