(16-Jun) -- Time finally ran out for the 2020 NSAF Outdoor Nationals, the USA national high school track and field championships, formerly called the New Balance Outdoor Nationals. The National Scholastic Athletics Foundation, which had postponed the meet twice, was finally forced to cancel the competition due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
PHOTO: Athletes competing at the 2019 NSAF Outdoor Nationals in Greensboro, N.C. (photo by Walter Pinion for NSAF via Facebook)
"The NSAF Board recognizes and applauds the incredible commitment and effort that the athletes, coaches, support staffs, and their families dedicate to our sport and becoming everything they can be in and through track and field," said NSAF executive director Jim Spier in a statement today. "It is heartbreaking that we will not be able to reward them by hosting the national outdoor championships this year, as we have done every year since 1991. It's been our mission to provide this year's athletes that same special national championship experience, especially in this COVID-19 year when so much has already been taken away from them."
The championships were originally scheduled for the weekend of June 20 and 21, in Greensboro, N.C, at North Carolina A&T State University's Aggie Stadium, the meet's traditional time slot and location. But in late April, the NSAF postponed the meet to July 16 - 19 as the COVID-19 crisis swept the United States. The location remained the same.
Then on June 4, the NSAF postponed the meet again to July 30 to August 2, and moved the location to Howard Wood Field in Sioux Falls, S.D. North Carolina A&T State University had made the decision to keep their campus closed due to the pandemic until the end of August, so Aggie Stadium was no longer available. Also, South Dakota had been one of the earlier states in the economic reopening process and they would welcome the influx of thousands of athletes, families and fans. The NSAF cautioned, however, that the move was tentative and that a final decision would come by June 15.
Yesterday, NSAF officials had to accept that hosting the championships during the ongoing pandemic simply wasn't feasible. It was a bitter pill to swallow.
"We have to hold ourselves to the highest standard, and certain 'boxes' absolutely had to be checked in order to safely host the meet," Spier continued. "We could not with absolute certitude check all of those boxes. We determined that it is not possible to conduct the Championships at the level we and the athletes, coaches, and parents from around the country expect of the NSAF."
Dr. Rob Jones, the NSAF medical director, explained that meeting the safety requirements set up by USA Track & Field and the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee was basically impossible. "We needed to guarantee that every one of the several thousand athletes, coaches, and officials would be able to get the two COVID-19 tests within seven days prior to their last day of competition at the Championships, necessary to meet the recommendations and guidelines," Jones said through a statement. He added: "We could not do so."
The championships had New Balance as a title sponsor for ten years, but the contract ended earlier this year. The NSAF hopes to host what would be the 30th edition of the championships in 2021.
"We, like many others, just pray that next year will see a return to normalcy and the NSAF will now refocus our efforts on making the 2021 Championships and our other events and programs the best ever," said Dr. Jones.