AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy – Members of the Aviano cross country teams will not compete in person against athletes from other schools this season.
But that didn’t stop them – and hundreds more at other sites in Europe on Saturday – from trying to cover 5 kilometers as quickly as possible.
About 30 supporters came to support the Saints on a cool autumn day when the temperatures were ideal for such an event.
DODEA presented the virtual aspect of the competition, which ends with a championship on October 24, this year with the aim of reducing the spread of the coronavirus. COVID-19 cases have increased dramatically recently in many European countries, including Italy. Aviano High School has not reported any cases so far.
“We worked really hard and I wish I could have been able to compete with other schools,” said coach Ian Birch.
“Our kids are very fast and it would be interesting to see how they fare in a head-to-head competition. Hope we can see it materialize next year.
In Aviano the riders were divided into groups of two and three to maintain some social distance during the event. In total, 15 competitors took part in a course made up mainly of the asphalt track which runs along a large part of the base’s peripheral road.
“Concrete is terrible to run on,” said Makayla Hall, a senior who finished first in girls in 22 minutes and 2 seconds. “With the season being so short, we are doing our best with this situation.”
Saturday’s event was the third of the season for the Saints. Next week all runners are expected to run on basic tracks to present a relatively level playing field. The coaches will then report the scores and the European virtual champions will be crowned. On the same day, competitors in Germany – where head-to-head competition has been approved – will face off in Baumholder with determined champions there as well.
“To compete virtually is a very unique experience because you have to motivate yourself during the race,” said Hall. “There is no one to compete against and therefore you have to be motivated by your own values. “
“It was a very different format, but it brought the team together a lot,” said senior Zachary Villa. “This situation allowed us to get to know each other better. I’m looking forward to next week and hope to run faster than today.
Birch said a good chunk of his teams had never participated in the sport before.
“This is my first time racing cross country,” said rookie Savannah Dismute. “I am improving over the weeks. My technique improves because I am learning to breathe better and I also understand how my body reacts to different rhythms, which helps me run better.
“I’ve never raced cross country before,” said junior Michael O’Brien. He finished first in the boys’ race at 19:22. “I am a footballer but I like to run. So even though it’s a challenge, I appreciate it. I prefer to run for a long time, but it’s okay.