COLUMBUS (FOX19) - Ohio Department of Health officials announced late Sunday they modified their definition of contact sports - and it no longer includes cross country.
The move appears to open the door for competitions to begin, but we are still waiting for the official interpretation Monday from the Ohio High School Athletic Association.
Contact sports are now defined as football, basketball, rugby, field hockey, soccer, lacrosse, wrestling, hockey, boxing, futsal and martial arts with opponents, according to Sunday’s statement from the Ohio Department Health.
Some athletic officials are already interpreting that as good news for runners.
Last week, the association suspended scrimmages for four contact sports, including cross country.
In a tweet late Sunday, the athletic association said they were still looking into the state’s latest health order and would issue a memo to local school leaders as soon as they confirmed details.
Field hockey, soccer and football still need approval from Gov. Mike DeWine’s Office.
Read the state’s latest health order that came out on Saturday here.
The issue of whether cross country was a contact sport came under debate over the past week. Some local athletic officials said they felt state health officials incorrectly classified as a contact sport.
“My thought is if you can do your sport without touching anybody else, it shouldn’t be a contact sport, and you can do our sport without touching anybody else,” said Anderson High School’s cross country coach, Kerry Lee.
Cross country has a bit of touching at the start of a race, local athletic officials say, but that is low compared to other sports classified as ‘contact sports.’
“There is no contact in cross country,” said Lakota East Athletic Director Rich Bryant. “Kids might run into each other, but it’s not like a football game or a wrestling match or a soccer match something like that. But, at some point, you’re going to put 200 kids on a starting line and fire a starting pistol, and they’re all going to all run off at the same time. That’s easily manageable as long as calm heads prevail, and we can work through whatever steps need to be taken.”
Fall sports such as volleyball, golf, and tennis are allowed to practice and have contests between schools, the OHSAA Board of Directors said Friday
“It is important to keep the athletic activity moving forward,” said Dan Leffingwell, president of the OHSAA Board of Directors.
“And with that, we believe our member schools provide our student-athletes with the safest possible environment to return to play and that our school programs are the best avenue to help students learn lifelong lessons and provide social, emotional, and physical benefits that other programs cannot. Moving forward allows those students to continue to be engaged with their school coaches and teammates. Membership data also supports this decision.”
Aug. 24 is the target date for cross country meets, according to the OHSAA board, and it’s Aug. 31 for soccer and field hockey.
The dates are subject to change.