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Then-Goshen College senior Ryan Smith, in bib No. 212, competes in the 2016 NAIA men’s cross country national championships race. While the 2020 national championships race won’t take place until the spring of 2021, Goshen College and its fellow Crossroads League schools will compete in its regular season invites in the fall.

GOSHEN — Although the NAIA has moved all fall sports championships to the spring, the Crossroads League is intending to hold its fall sports contests this fall.

In a statement released by Crossroads League Commissioner Larry DeSimpelare Monday, the league announced it will proceed with the upcoming fall sports season under the health guidelines that the NAIA and local health organizations have established.

“The Crossroads League is committed to holding athletic contests for the 2020-2021 school year,” DeSimpelare’s statement read in part. “The commitment follows the current guidelines established by our local and state health departments, the Centers of Disease Control and the NAIA.”

Goshen College, a member of the Crossroads League, released its own statement shortly after DeSimpelare’s.

“Earlier [last] week, the NAIA postponed its fall championships in men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s cross country and women’s volleyball to spring 2021 while granting each conference the autonomy to set its regular-season schedule,” the statement read. “The league cited its small geographic size as one factor that aided in the decision to return to competition.”

Of the 10 Crossroads League schools, eight of them are located in Indiana. The only two that are not are Spring Arbor University in Michigan and Mount Vernon Nazarene University in Ohio.

As of now, athletes are schedule to report back on to campus this Friday, Aug. 7. First official contests can’t begin until Sept. 5. A shortened schedule has already been announced by the NAIA, but it is due to be even shorter this year with the championships moving to the spring.

Goshen College interim Athletic Director Erica Albertin has been sitting in on the decision-making meetings with the other Crossroad League ADs and health officials. When the NAIA made its announcement last week delaying the fall championships to the spring, it did have an effect on the thoughts of everyone involved in deciding the League’s immediate future.

“I think, of course, it came into our minds when we were thinking about what was best for our student-athletes. … just thinking about the holistic care of our student-athletes has been really important and our guiding principle there.”

The interim Associated AD at Goshen College, Rustin Nyce, mostly stayed away from the meetings. He’s happy the League will get a chance to play fall sports, though.

“It was fairly unanimous that the league, the Council of Presidents and the ADs felt like we had done enough planning and just really wanted to give it a go and test our system,” Nyce said.

Nyce also coaches the cross country and track and field programs at the college. With the men’s and women’s cross country championships now being moved to the spring, it’s more than likely those championships will interfere with the track season.

On top of that, some conferences are moving its fall competitions to the spring now, like the Wolverine Hoosier Athletic Conference. This takes away from the talent pool schools in the Crossroads League can compete against.

“I don’t know how the rankings are going to be this year,” said Nyce, whose men’s 2019 cross country team qualified for the national championship race. “If the (Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference) doesn’t race and the WHAC doesn’t race, we don’t really have regional competition, and so how do we rate ourselves as far as national rankings go when other people aren’t competing?”

A big question all sports leagues has faced when trying to return is testing its athletes for COVID-19. The NAIA originally laid out a plan for testing, but has now left it into the hands of each conference to decide what to do.

“We’re still talking — we just had a meeting with the ADs (Monday), we have another one (Tuesday) and Wednesday as well — about what that testing will look like and how to do it in a way that makes sense to the student-athletes, our coaching staffs, our administrative staffs and also the community around us,” Albertin said.

While there will be condensed schedules and championships won’t be happening until the spring, just being able to have the student-athletes back on campus is a welcoming sight for a coach like Nyce.

“The athletes are just really eager to come together,” Nyce said. “First of all, they’re just glad to be back at school and glad to be back with their team, and the secondary part of that is how they’re going to compete. I think if they’re together, they’ll be a little more willing to have a disjointed season because at least they’re doing it together.”

Austin Hough can be reached at austin.hough@goshennews.com or at 574-538-2360. Follow him on Twitter at @AustinHoughTGN.

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