Due to the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 and Nashville’s phased reopening plan, the TSSAA has made plans to move the 2020 State Cross Country Championships to Sanders Ferry Park in Hendersonville. The championships will take place over two days (Nov. 5-6) instead of the traditional one-day event to allow for social distancing.
Hendersonville Parks Director Andy Gilley cited many positives for the City of Hendersonville, but none bigger than bringing in sales tax dollars, especially during a pandemic.
The event will bring athletes and spectators from all parts of the state, a welcome sight for many hotels and businesses.
“The city benefits in a huge way,” Gilley said. “Whether people are buying gas, staying in our hotels, eating at our restaurants, shopping or however they choose to spend their money will go a long way.”
In addition to the money that will be brought in, Gilley hopes that a well-run event will lead to future TSSAA state championships in Hendersonville.
The city is already hosting the Tennessee Middle School baseball and softball tournaments in 2021.
“We want to do everything we can to make the TSSAA and all the teams, coaches and families welcome here,” Gilley said.
TSSAA Assistant Executive Director Richard McWhirter added that cities that have hosted state events before often have an advantage when vying to host future championships.
“We open up everything for every classification for high school and middle school, and sometimes cities start small and end up getting bigger events if they show they can handle them,” he said. “Those cities always have a leg up on those that have never hosted an event before. We have worked with them and know that they will have it if we need something, whether that be security, hotels, whatever.”
This year was not a standard bid process for the state championships.
Usually, when TSSAA puts out a bid for sports like football or soccer, cities flock for a chance to host. The cross country championships were not that way.
McWhirter said the TSSAA reached out to Murfreesboro first, but he said he couldn’t get the commitments necessary to ensure a well-run event in November.
Having worked with Beech coach Scott Weitecha for the middle school sectionals, McWhirter decided he would reach out to the Hendersonville Parks Department to gauge its interest and the feasibility of hosting the state championships in Sumner County.
“The key is facilities and workers,” McWhirter said. “Normally, this event brings in 6-7,000 people, but with us spreading the event over two days in four different time slots, we are hoping only 1,500 will be at each race. We knew (Hendersonville) had the hotel room, we knew they had a course that spectators could view at several different areas, we knew they had the parking and a local team of volunteers. The question was: can they provide adequate security? They (can).”
The course recently held the inaugural Sanders Ferry Showdown, featuring high school and middle school teams. The course is in great shape thanks to the city’s maintenance department, Gilley said.
“Our maintenance staff takes a lot of pride in keeping our parks - in particular Sanders Ferry - in tremendous shape,” Gilley said. “The course and the venue, I think, played a key role in the TSSAA feeling good about coming here.”
Below are the dates and times for the 2020 TSSAA Cross Country State Championships:
10:00 a.m. - DI Large Class Girls Championship
10:40 a.m. - DI Large Class Boys Championship
2:00 p.m. - DI Small Class Girls Championship
2:40 p.m. - DI Small Class Boys’ Championship
10:00 a.m. - DII AA Girls Championship
10:40 a.m. - DII AA Boys Championship
2:00 p.m. - DII A Girls Championship
2:40 p.m. - DII A Boys Championship