A Deeper Look At How XC Could Look This Fall: The Wave Start

Every 30 seconds a wave of 10 or less runners launched off the starting line. 

Pockets of parents and spectators cheered every wave off, while the next wave made their way up to the red mat that stretched across the muddy terrain. Some wore masks all the way up to the line before pulling them down toward the neck.

It was surreal in a way. 

National High School Trail Championships race director and Salida High coach Kenny Wilcox gave us a glimpse as to what we may see more of this fall - Wilcox seeded the race based on submitted 5k times, and placed runners in waves of 10 or less.

Staggered Starts - or Waves - whatever you want to call them, could possibly be a new format for fall cross country. And while it looked odd, and lacked the chaos of a mass start and intense finish, it was clear that those who participated  - and those who watched - had accepted this new reality, and were simply excited just to have the opportunity to race again. 

With COVID-19 still raging across the country, it's clear that if sports are to continue we'll likely have to find new ways to insure the safety of competitors and spectators. Staggered waves are perhaps one option for increasing distance between athletes.

While the excitement for an event was unanimous, the reviews were somewhat mixed for the staggered waves, which provided a new element to racing.

In the past, one start means one finish - the race you see unfolding is The Race. Whoever crossed the finish line first, won. 

But with the staggered waves this is obviously not the case - as we saw in the boy's race where Battle Mountain's Sullivan Middaugh won the race out of the third wave. 

Let's take a deeper look into how this was made possible. 

Middaugh started a full minute behind the first wave. In order to make a victory possible, all that was needed was to climb within 59 seconds of whoever was leading the first wave.

You don't have to catch the pack, the runner just needs to keep them within view, and it's possible to gauge the distance from start and throughout the race to figure out who exactly is winning. 

Another example is Colby Schultz