Dunn Neugebauer Column: DNN Reporting the 2020 Positives

Hayden Puett of Holy Innocents (photos by Daniel McCauley)

You know it's been a strange year when Georgia and Georgia Tech don't even play each other in football. What's up with that? Still, DNN (Dunn Neugie Network) isn't here to bore you with the bad, but instead, report the great happenings of the 2020 cross country season.

And we begin by going back to Nov. 7th, Saturday, and we're at the state starting line in Carrollton. I'm not going to mention the person's name I was talking to, but his initials are Chad McDaniel and he coaches at Wesleyan. Anyway, he summed it up best when he looked over at me and said, "Isn't this great! We had a season! Did you expect this back in August?"

 No, I didn't. You didn't either. We even had a coach's meeting in August, with the gist of it being "We'll do this if we have a season, but there's no way in hell we're going to have a season." For this reason, DNN failed to take notes, which was bad because, well, we had a season.

 And let's talk about this season when wearing masks and carrying temperature guns were the norm. Still, this reporter actually loved and still loves the social distance thing as far as cross country, as when interviewing a runner at the finish line, I didn't have to get bled on, sweated on, or - ala the movie The Exorcist - didn't get hit in the head with projectile vomit.

 Gross, I know, but you've worked the chute of a race before, right?

 It was a season where there were more races at the races if that makes sense, which let teams sign up for later starts. One Saturday, it was actually daylight when we left to go TO a race, prompting me to panic and ask Jayaraj. "Are we late?"

 "Nope, Marist is three miles away and we don't race for two hours." Wow. Imagine this, if you can - because before this year I couldn't - actually hitting the snooze button the allotted seven times before having to get up on a Saturday, instead of waking up screaming and wondering why we ever signed up for this sport.

 Some things were normal. The "refresh" button of cell phones still got the living crap beat out of them while waiting for results, Separation Slope remained something to be reverently scared of, but this year it was a matter of not only surviving your region event but avoiding being contact traced at the same time.

 Still, this led to positive and a simple solution: Stay six feet away, talk very fast, then move on! We have a big team anyway - 94 people we have to talk to.

 Let's move on to the banquet, though, shall we? Indoors and buffet lines were out of the question - it's a germ thing - but that didn't stop our team from bringing lawn chairs and getting it done at the end of a cul de sac.

Think drive-in movie, without the risk of getting caught sneaking kids in in your trunk. Picture a big screen, with wires running out of somebody's house and twisting and turning into one big box. Picture sitting back, munching on a burrito out of a sack, laughing at Jayaraj, reliving the season without having to worry about microphones working, or hiding presents under the podium.

The "movie" lasted an hour-and-a-half if anyone cared to time it, and I never even bothered to leave on purpose to go to the restroom. Imagine that as well, if you can.

In closing, yes there were masks and guns and fewer coolers, but there were also spread out starting lines, resiliency, and the love for succeeding despite Las Vegas odds that said we couldn't. There was trying to pry apart kids who latch onto each other like ticks, saying goodbye to the handshake, and feeling guilty when hugging one of your conquering kids.

But, you know, there was a new appreciation - not just for the results - but for these kids getting past a hurdle thrown at them by the Heavens, surviving despite their norms wiped away by God's powerful eraser, as everything had to be written in pencil, not pen.

And there were still races and hills and turns and pain, shin splints and fartlek's and hill workouts, and PRs. There were pain and suffering, but there was survival of the fittest because we are the fittest.

And last, but not least, there was a season - a season that wasn't supposed to happen, yet it did. Starting guns that were refired. Cones set up each weekend and some during the week. And while life closed down for many, and the media scared all the rest, the runners of the world did what the runners of the world always do.


 This has been DNN reporting...