HAYWARD — After nearly two weeks of unease and worry over where and when the North Coast Section cross country championship meet would be held, there was palpable excitement when racing got underway Tuesday morning at Hayward High School.
But it was relatively short-lived.
At 10:38 a.m., halfway through the race schedule, the event was canceled when the air quality index registered at 154, above the section’s threshold of 150.
“We had three different people on the meet management team that were checking constantly,” said co-meet director Chuck Woodridge, who is also the cross country coach at Campolindo High School.
“It was disappointing given the amount of work the meet management team has put in to put on the meet, and the distances the teams have traveled obviously, but it is in the interest of the health of the kids,” he said.
The threshold and modified format of the meet — and what would happen should it be canceled or cut short — was laid out in an email from NCS staff that was sent to coaches and athletic directors Monday.
The results from the races that had been completed — Division 1, 2 and 3 boys, and Div.ision 1 and 2 girls — will stand. A committee of three was tasked with determining which teams and runners from the schools that did not get to compete would advance to the CIF state cross country championship at Woodward Park on Saturday in Fresno.
The decision will be based on criteria that include most recent published rankings, most recent meet performances and prominent regional and statewide races, Woodridge said.
The timing of the decision to cancel meant that section favorite Gabby Peterson, a senior at Healdsburg High, could not defend her title.
Nor could Sonoma Academy senior Andre Williams go after the section title in Division 5 that eluded him last year. He, like Peterson, is a lock to go to the state meet, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t disappointed to miss out on Tuesday’s competition.
“It’s a bummer — everyone wanted to run here. I know my team is bummed,” he said. “I was looking forward to it, but it’s fine. It is what it is.”
And Williams, who like everyone else in the section had to try to arrange his training toward an as-yet-unknown race date when the meet was in doubt, postponed, rescheduled and then canceled, was trying to see the positive to Tuesday’s cancellation.
“It’s a bummer but since it was already canceled on Saturday, it was already kind of sketchy just because state and NCS would be so close,” he said. “So I mean it’s a blessing in disguise, I guess, because we get to rest more.”
The other silver lining came in the form of an added team berth for those races that did not get run Tuesday.
“The CIF said that for any contest that did not happen today, they would give us an additional berth for the team advancers,” Woodridge said.
But the move left a lot of coaches both disappointed that their kids couldn’t run and discouraged by the process.
“I feel bad for our seniors; they didn’t get to run,” Piner coach Luis Rosales said. “It’s always hard to put it to a selection committee. We either run fast or we don’t. Historically, we do well now.”
CIF State Cross Country
Races to be held Saturday at Woodward Park in Fresno
Division 3 boys
Lucas Chung, Windsor
Maria Carrillo team
Division 3 girls
Lilja Chung, Windsor
Maria Carrillo team
Division 4 boys
Division 5 boys
Andre Williams, Sonoma Academy
Jack Vanden Heuval, Healdsburg
Paden Collard, Cloverdale
Aidan Barker, Technology
Rincon Valley Christian team
Division 5 girls
Gabrielle Peterson, Healdsburg
Dylan Hutchinson, Fort Bragg
Brooklyn Huffman, Middletown