Tallahassee hosting FHSAA Cross Country Championship in jeopardy due to Leon County’s testing requirements

Published: Sep. 28, 2020 at 6:00 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - The 2020 Florida High School Cross Country State Championships are scheduled to be held at Apalachee Regional Park on November 13-14; however, the Florida High School Athletic Association says the Leon County-based event could be in jeopardy due to the County’s testing protocols.

With the County’s decision at the latest Commission meeting to keep fields closed, they did vote to allow cross country events at County facilities. That decision came with a few caveats:

  • Prohibit spectators and non-essential personnel
  • Require everyone to wear a face cover unless they are actively competing or have a medical condition
  • Require everyone to be screened for symptoms prior to entry
  • Require competitors, coaches, and essential personnel to test negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours of an event

The Florida High School Athletic Foundation wrote in a letter to County Commission Chair Bryan Desloge that the testing requirement could force the organization to find a new location.

Our expectation is that new measures for all of our championship events will include items that are consistent with what other group gathering sites/venues across the state are doing as they begin to reintroduce and conduct events. These measures include temperature screenings, face coverings, and potentially limited spectator attendance, each of which were voted on and approved at your last meeting. While resources may be more readily available at higher levels of education and athletics, newly imposed negative testing mandate at the high school level will put undue hardship on participating student-athletes and teams, and will exclude member schools and their athletes from participating. The current inaccuracies of false-positives, potential delays in results, the financial cost, and even the lack of availability for uniform testing across our state does not make this mandate feasible for the thousands of student-athletes at the high school level.

George D. Tomyn, Executive Director

Desloge says he agrees.

“The testing becomes problematic for children in different parts of the state, different parts of the south, if they’re asymptomatic, they don’t have access to tests. It’s a fine we’re basically imposing upon them. So we’ve got to figure out a more creative way, and a better way, not only to protect the community but to allow the kids to compete,” said Desloge.

Desloge also says he believes some spectators should be allowed to attend if they can be socially distanced.

The letter from the FHSAA says the decision on whether to stick with the Leon County location or move will be made by September 30. Desloge says this issue will come before the Commission at Tuesday’s meeting.

Apalachee Regional Park was previously part of a landfill; it’s been completely revamped with a start and finish line and stage just in time for the November event.

In 2021, Leon County will be hosting the NCAA Cross Country Championship; Desloge compared that to hosting the College World Series.

According to Kerri Post with Visit Tallahassee and the Leon County Division of Tourism, championship cross country events have a $5 million economic impact.

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