Fall Practice Begins With Some Athletes Running With New Teams

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD/WYZZ) — High school fall practice began around the state Monday without football, boys soccer and girls volleyball.

Those sports are moved to the spring this year. The Illinois High School Association shuffled sports schedules to give those “at risk” sports a better chance of being played as the state wrestles with how to conduct sports in a pandemic.

Cross country practices feature a new look. Runners wear masks during their warm-up but are still logging plenty of miles.

And some of the runners are new to cross country rosters because their sports were moved to the spring.

“I didn’t run cross country until eighth grade and I loved it,” said Metamora soccer player Hunter Roedell. “But I’ve always played soccer since I was little. I’ve always battled if I should do cross country or soccer.”

When the senior’s main sport was moved, the fall was open for Roedell to join the Redbird cross country team.

“He contacted me and said, can I come out? I said, ‘Oh, yeah. Sure.’ It’s a win for the team and a win for Hunter too,” said Metamora cross country coach Gene Jones.

Cross country teams could see an increase in numbers as athletes without a fall sport look for a landing spot. Dunlap has a volleyball player and cheerleader running with its girls cross country team and two soccer players with the boys.

“I think that the beauty of high school sports, in general, is you become bigger than something that’s just yourself,” said Dunlap cross country coach Chris Friedman. “When that gets taken away from you, whether it’s volleyball, soccer or cheerleading, you still want to be part of that.”

Dunlap had 65 runners at Monday’s practice. One of them was sophomore soccer player Nicholas Sell, who has always had a eye on the cross country team.

“It might be a little different that what cross country usually is,” Sell said. “But I think it will still be a good opportunity to see what it’s like and see if I want to stay with soccer or move to cross country.”

They are accustomed to competing. Some prep athletes will just do it with a different sport this fall.

“I just want to do something,” Roedell said. “And I want to be able run at least one cross country race in high school. So I decided I’m just going to do it. It’s going to be fun and I’m going to love it.”

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