By Maurice Patton
Expected to be a milestone event, the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association’s state cross country championships this fall will still be notable – but for a different reason.
After taking place at the Percy Warner Park Iroquois Steeplechase for the past 49 consecutive years, this year’s meet will be held at Sanders Ferry Park in Hendersonville.
The move was precipitated by the phased reopening plan for Nashville and Metro Parks under COVID-19 guidelines.
“Right now, they’re not allowed to have anyone over there,” TSSAA executive director Bernard Childress said Friday in making the announcement. “We kept trying to get a commitment from them, but with this pandemic, they couldn’t give us one. We couldn’t wait till two weeks (before the event) to hear ‘yea’ or ‘nay’.
“We’ve been looking around and never thought we’d find a place, but Hendersonville was willing to host us and they said they’d commit as soon as we made a decision.”
Typically scheduled for the first Saturday in November, this year’s championships will be held over two days, with the Division I Large and Small Class races for boys and girls taking place on Nov. 5 and the DII Class AA and Class A events set for Nov. 6.
“It’s not ideal,” Childress admitted. “We didn’t want it during the school day or on two consecutive days. We’d much rather have it on Saturday. But that didn’t work for them, and we had no other option.”
Columbia Academy coach Brady Henson said a number of coaches have embraced the new venue.
“I’m pretty excited about it,” he said. “We’ve never run there before, but they’ve had several regional meets in the past. It’s a good course, very fan-friendly. You can watch as they do two loops.”
TSSAA officials were unclear as to how the relocation would affect the region meets. Many of the Middle Tennessee teams have traditionally held their state qualifying meets at the Steeplechase as well.
“They’re going to have to get another site if they don’t get approval from Metro to have events,” Childress said.
TSSAA State Cross Country Championships schedule
Thursday, Nov. 5
10 a.m. — Division I Large Class Girls
10:40 a.m. — Division I Large Class Boys
2 p.m. — Division I Small Class Girls
2:40 p.m. — Division I Small Class Boys
Friday, Nov. 6
10 a.m. — Division II Class AA Girls
10:40 a.m. — Division II Class A Boys
2 p.m. — Division II Class A Girls
2:40 p.m. — Division II Class A Boys