IHSA extends golf and cross country postseasons

Despite earlier hesitations to extend fall sports’ postseasons due to COVID-19, the IHSA board of directors voted in late September to allow cross country and golf to finish their seasons with a sectionals tournament/meet, rather than ending with regionals.

According to IHSA executive director, Craig Anderson, this decision was made after seeing the “relative success we have had safely conducting cross country and golf this fall.” The decision opens the doors for athletes to participate in a more competitive setting.

“I’m really happy that we’re having a sectional,” Hayley Burk, senior cross country runner, said. “Right now we have to finish our race completely before the other team can even start racing, so I think that running with other people this postseason is going to bring out our girls’ competitive side and hopefully we’ll all [break personal records].”

This season, a time trial race format has been implemented in cross country, where each runner is separated from the next by fifteen seconds, and teams run independently. Postseason races, however, will allow for runners to compete at the same time in flighted heats. The cross country teams’ sectionals meet will be October 29-31, while the golf sectionals tournament is set for October 12th.

Brandon Koester, senior, hits a pitch in his approach shot towards the green. For him, the extension of his postseason has given him his first chance to play at a sectionals tournament. (Photo used with permission of Brandon Koester)

 Although the format of golf has remained mostly unchanged due to the naturally socially distanced nature of the sport, the level of competition will be increased, says Brandon Koester, senior golfer.

“I think that if the people around you are playing better, it makes it easier for you to play better, too, and there’s going to be a lot of great players at sectionals,” Koester said. “Getting to have sectionals this year is really exciting, and it [motivated me] during regionals to have something to look forward to if I did well.”

For Koester, the opportunity to play at sectionals this year was “kind of like good karma”, he says, because after clinching the last individual qualifying spot at regionals on October 6th, he now has the opportunity to compete in sectionals for the first time.

“I didn’t qualify [for sectionals] last year, and I barely qualified this year, but I’m glad I did,” Koester said. “I practiced for four straight years and it’s finally paid off, so this last tournament is a kind of closure for me.”

Many athletes, especially seniors whose last competition of the season spells the end of their high school career, feel the same sentimentality as extended seasons allow for extra chances. 

“I haven’t raced sectionals since my sophomore year because I was injured last year, so I’m so happy I get the chance this time around,” Burk said. “Our coach always tells us to take one day at a time, so though I never in a million years would have imagined my last season to be during a pandemic, I’m glad we’ve been staying safe and doing all this social distancing stuff correctly so we could be rewarded with sectionals.”