It was an eerie atmosphere a year ago, at the 2nd edition of the Gans Creek Classic High School Cross Country meet at the year-old Gans Creek Cross Country Course in Columbia. Six-months after the Covid-19 pandemic hit the United States, all precautions were taken to avoid the spread of the virus that had ravaged the world. It was an odd site to look around and just see coaches, athletes, meet personnel and a few media members. The meet was limited to varsity races only and the field was spread out over 10 races with 30-minute buffers between five divisions to allow teams to get in, race, and head home, limiting the amount of contact between teams and individuals.
There were about 1,2000 athletes at last year's meet with teams getting 10 entries each. What made it so odd, as so much of the 2020 Fall cross country season was, was the lack of parents, siblings, grandparents, friends, and supporters, sprinting from point to point on the gorgeous course, just for the chance to see and cheer their hearts and voices out for their loved ones who were racing. A few thousand fans that would have been there had to settle for watching the webcast, while another 1,000 or so junior varsity athletes took the week off of competition or had to race elsewhere. Other teams were kept from competing at Gans Creek at all because of district, diocese, or area Covid-19 restrictions.
While so much was so different Saturday, September 26, 2020, there was one thing that gave it a familiar feeling, at least to many who have been around the sport in the state for the last decade: the presence of Greg Hall. While not there physically, he was there in spirit. He was recognized and remembered, and there were plenty of signs of him.
Greg Hall photographs the finish of a race at the Inaugural Gans Creek Classic in 2019
A year after it's groundbreaking, the Greg Hall Champions Plaza at Gans Creek Cross Country Course will be dedicated Friday evening, ahead of Saturday's 3rd Annual Gans Creek Classic High School meet. Hall, the beloved Kansas City-area columnist, photographer, writer, and ultimate cheerleader for young people, passed away suddenly in January of 2020. Soon after, a fundraising effort was spearheaded by Lafayette High School coach Steven Stallis and Jeffrey Hindman, the father of former Lafayette star Austin. Donations quickly poured in. Forty-thousand dollars was raised and soon the Columbia Parks and Recreation Department had plans for the awards area at the World-Class course that opened in 2019 at Gans Creek Recreation Area after lots of work from the City of Columbia and the University of Missouri.