For only the third time since 1980, the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association state championships for cross country will not take place at Hereford this fall.
In a phone call Friday afternoon, MPSSAA executive director Ned Sparks said he received an email last week from Hereford saying that the well-reputed three-mile course on the school’s rural Parkton campus was being affected by ongoing school construction.
"They held out as long as they could, and they thought that they might be able to pull it off, but they just said, 'Hey, at this time, in the interest of fairness, we're gonna pull the plug now, so we can make alternate plans rather than wait a week or two before," Sparks said. "That was good that they did that."
Hereford athletic director Mike Kalisz was unable to be reached for comment as of Friday afternoon.
But in a recent letter posted on TriStateRunnur.com and other websites, Kalisz wrote that "extensive school renovations" led to the school canceling its annual Bull Run Invitational, which was originally scheduled for Sept. 21. Kalisz wrote that the decision came "after numerous meetings with engineers, construction supervisors, etc."
In the same letter, Kalisz said he notified the MPSSAA that Hereford would not be able to host the state meet in November.
"While we were guaranteed that the cross country course would not be impacted until mid-November, general school-related construction, the installation of silt fences, barriers, and the grading of several critical areas of the cross country course has taken place which will not allow us to guarantee a safe environment for all athletes and spectators," Kalisz wrote in the letter.
Sparks said the MPSSAA has been "lucky" to take advantage of Hereford's course, regarded highly nationwide for its vast and rolling landscape.
"It's really just a terrific place to hold a championship," Sparks said. "It's a real challenging championship, it's a good championship. But we'll have to make due for this year. We'll have to go somewhere else. Hopefully we can duplicate the experience for the students."
Due to building renovations at Hereford, the cross country state meet was held at Western Maryland College, now McDaniel College, in 1991 and 1992.
Sparks said the MPSSAA has not yet identified a site for this year's meet. The future of the Bull Run Invitational after this year was not immediately known.
"One of the lessons of athletics we try and teach kids is [that] sometimes you get thrown these things and you've got to make the best of it," he said. "We'll go on and we'll have a championship, and there'll be a champion and so be it."