The pandemic stole away the biggest high school sporting event in Janesville for the 2020-21 school year.
Had the Midwest Invitational cross country meet been held, as usual, in September, it would have been the 83rd annual running of the event.
But the 5-kilometer course at Blackhawk Golf Course will indeed still be used for a premier event before all is said and done.
The WIAA announced Monday that Janesville Craig will host the alternate fall state cross country meet at the course on Saturday, May 8.
“A state site had not been announced, and our coaches (Jessica Lawton and Brandon Miles) approached me and said, ‘What do you think?’” Craig athletic director Ben McCormick said. “Quite honestly, it was only two weeks away, and typically something like that—or planning for the Midwest Invitational—you’re planning for a long, long time. So I was apprehensive.
“But I also didn’t want to say no. So we called the city, called the golf course, talked to the WIAA to get organized. And we’re going to do it.”
Because the Midwest is held every year, many of the organizational pieces are in place. And in fact, McCormick noted, the alternate fall state meet will wind up being a much smaller event than the 40-team Midwest.
Teams participating in the alternate fall season will run at sectionals this Saturday. There are no divisional splits for the season, so all teams will run in one of four sectionals at Stevens Point, Middleton, Stoughton or Whitewater.
The top two boys and girls teams from each sectional, plus the top five boys and girls individual finishers from non-qualifying teams, will advance to the state meet in Janesville.
“So it’s eight boys teams, eight girls team, and 20 individual qualifiers from both boys and girls, so it’s really only 152 athletes split into two races,” McCormick said. “There’s still a lot going on. We’ll need a lot of volunteers and people to step up and help us, but we’re going to get it done.”
The current WIAA state meet each fall is held in Wisconsin Rapids. McCormick said hosting the alternate fall state meet might show that Janesville could be a future state host if the WIAA decides to move the event.
“I don’t know if Wisconsin Rapids will continue to host that, but this could be a nice preview for us to plan for something like that if they are looking for a host in the future,” McCormick said. “We’ll charge (entry fees for spectators) for this meet, which we never do with the Midwest. But we don’t want to operate at a loss. We’ll get a percentage of the gate, but we’ve got to pay workers, reserve the golf course, and we want to make sure we come out ahead.
“It will be nice for our kids to compete locally, and we have a great venue to run at.”