In this October 2019 photo, runners try to get a jump on the field during the Maine Cross Country Festival of Champions in Belfast. Runners are gearing up for next week's state championship meets in Bangor while having up to an extra week to train for the events. (Glendon Rand Photo)

The high school cross country season typically has a definitive rhythm.

Summer workouts precede the start of the season, with the Festival of Champions providing a full-foliage, early October measuring stick that leads to conference championship, regional and state meets on consecutive weekends.

That rhythm in most cases this fall has become another victim of COVID-19.

The Festival of Champions was scaled back to comply with the 100-person outdoor gathering limit while regional championship meets were canceled as qualifying for states was redirected to the conferences, meaning one less postseason competition.

Conference qualifying events were completed around the state last weekend, but this Saturday will be devoted to college-bound students having the chance to take the Scholastic Aptitude Tests after earlier dates this year were canceled due to the coronavirus.

That gives those runners who have advanced to states a longer break before that two-day event. The boys are set to run on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, while the girls will compete on Saturday, Nov. 14, both at Saxl Park in Bangor.

Will the weekend off make any difference?

Two coaches coming off successful conference meets don’t think so, citing season-long preparation.

“When you’re fit, you stay fit and regardless of the time between races if you come in with a solid training base it enables you to be more agile,” said Mount Desert Island of Bar Harbor coach Desiree Sirois, whose boys and girls teams swept the Penobscot Valley Conference Class B championships last weekend.

“You can adjust it a little bit, turn it up or turn it down and really prepare so you don’t rely on peaking and tapering. You just rely on a solid, consistent effort that gets pushed up anytime a race happens.”

Sirois traces the Trojans’ success to a steady commitment since the start of summer workouts in July.

“We said we can’t anticipate what’s going to be, but whatever it is we’re going to show up 100 percent ready to run from the start of the season to the end,” she said. “I think with a solid foundation and trust in your training and trust in your team, the ability to adapt and rise above it becomes so much easier.”

Another program with major-league preseason commitment was Bangor High School, whose runners logged more than 11,000 miles during the summer in preparation for what they hoped would be a successful autumn.

Since then the Rams have captured the boys and girls titles at the Festival of Champions and last Saturday swept the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A championships. The boys won the league crown for the second time in three years while the girls earned the top spot for the first time.

Bangor coach Roger Huber doesn’t think his teams will be affected by the mini-break between the KVACs and the state meet because they’ve been competing on a similar schedule throughout the fall.

“We’re used to it because this year, with the need to limit the number of participants in each race, our JV runners and our varsity runners have all been swapping weeks,” he said. “I kind of like it. It gives us a few more training options, and we’re sort of on a 10-day training cycle anyway so I don’t think it’s a disadvantage.”

Huber believes most runners find it easier to race every other week than every seven days.

“When we found out that it was going to be a week and a half or two weeks before states, before I even told the kids I asked them if they would rather race every week or every other week and to a runner they all said every other week.

“Then I said, ‘I’ve got some good news for you.’”

The only issue could be the spread of the coronavirus and its potential impact on the state championship meets.

Ernie Clark

Ernie Clark

Ernie Clark is a veteran sportswriter who has worked with the Bangor Daily News for more than a decade. A four-time Maine Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters...