The 2020 PIAA cross country championship races are slated for Saturday on the Parkview course near the Giant Center in Hershey. About 20 L-L runners are in line to compete.
But this year's setup is unlike any other due to the parameters in place to prevent the possible spread of the coronavirus.
The first change came in the limiting of qualifiers. A year ago, the highest number of runners came in the Class 2A boys, 2A girls and 3A boys races, which each had a maximum of 227 runners. This year, a maximum of 137 runners will be competing in each of the Class 1A and 2A races, and upwards of 116 runners in each of the Class 3A races.
The second change is that instead of having those 116 or 137 runners compete against each other in one race, each classification will instead have runners separated into four separate heats. Those heats will have staggered starts every 15 minutes.
After all the runners have finished in each classification, the times will be compiled, and medals awarded based on the fastest times. The medal ceremonies will take place in front of the Giant Center, while heats for other classifications are ongoing over on the Parkview course.
"Honestly, it's not a race when they're doing it this way," longtime Penn Manor coach Bob Ulmer said. "It's a time trial."
Last Saturday, Penn Manor senior Graham Thomas became just the second Penn Manor boys runner to win a District Three cross country title, the first since Dave Henry won in 1981 and 1980. Henry also owns the program's best finish at the state meet, placing fourth in 1981 after an eighth-place finish in 1980.
"All he (Thomas) can do is try to win his wave," Ulmer said. "Then let the chips fall where they may. It's a difficult situation but it's the same for everybody."
And it beats the alternative, which is no state meet at all.
"Hopefully this is just a one year thing," McCaskey coach Mike Craighead said. "And we get through it and get back to normal next year."
Medals will be awarded to the top-25 individual runners in each class. Members of the championship and runner-up teams will also receive medals.
Also, there will be less spectators this year as each runner will be given four color-coded wristbands to give to anyone of their choosing, with those wristbands limited to certain timeframes in which the spectators are permitted into the event. Everyone else will be able to watch a livestream of the day's events on PCNtv.com.
Here's a list of the L-L runners competing Saturday.
Class 3A boys: First of four heats begins at 2 p.m. L-L runners include Thomas (L-L champ, District Three champ), McCaskey senior Stephen Schousen (District Three runner-up), Cedar Crest's Ryan Wolfe (fifth at L-L meet, 13th at District 3-3A meet), Manheim Township's Tyler Stevens (fourth at L-L meet, 15th at District 3-3A meet), along with the team of Hempfield, the L-L and District 3-3A team champion. That includes Hempfield sophomore Aidan Hodge, the L-L runner-up who placed fourth at districts.
Class 3A girls: First of four heats begins at 1 p.m. L-L runners include McCaskey senior Arielle Breuninger (fifth place at L-L meet, fourth place at District 3-3A meet), Ephrata senior Alyssa Fedorshak (L-L champion, fifth place at District 3-3A meet), Warwick senior Anna Martin (L-L runner-up, seventh place at District 3-3A meet) and freshman Ella Hartel (sixth at L-L meet, 13th at District 3-3A meet) and Elizabethtown's Maddie Quinn (10th at L-L meet, ninth at District 3-3A meet).
Class 2A boys: First of four heats begins at 12 p.m. Lampeter-Strasburg freshman Colin Whitaker (13th at L-L meet, third at District 3-2A meet) and Annville-Cleona senior Jack Tshudy (16th at L-L meet, ninth at District 3-2A meet) will be competing.
Class 1A girls: First of four heats begins at 9 a.m. Annville-Cleona teammates Braetan Peters and Cassi Clemson will be in action after taking the top-two spots, respectively, at the District 3-1A race.