The girls from the Northville cross country squad in Michigan will get the chance to compete at Nike Cross Nationals after all.
A long standing rule in the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) holds that high school teams may not compete in national postseason competitions after the high school season concludes (regional meets and competitions are ok). As reported by Runners World and running website Dye Stat, to get around that restriction and compete in the Nike Cross Nationals regional meet, the Northville High squad formed an officially unattached running club called NXC Running Club. As it turns out, that club squad went on to finish second at the regional meet, a result that was a vast improvement on the team’s fourth-place finish at the state meet and which automatically qualified it to compete at the Nike Cross Nationals in Portland.
That’s where the good news ended for the Northville girls. The MHSAA ruled that the team couldn’t compete in Portland or it would violate the aforementioned postseason regulation, which would bring with it a ban of as much as a year. The runners were deeply disappointed, so their parents did what many American parents would: They lawyered up and filed a legal motion against the MHSAA. Among their trump arguments was that the team had been allowed to compete at the regional meet for three consecutive years without incident, so a berth in a national tournament was no more harmful to the program than the regional edition.
That logic, combined with significant outreach and support from celebrity runners like former Olympian Dathan Ritzenheim and Lauren Fleshman led to a negotiation and, eventually, a mutual agreement with undisclosed terms that calls for the NXC Running Club to be able to compete at the 2015 Nike Cross Nationals.
That was all the NXC girls were looking for, setting off holiday celebrations as the team prepares for a trip to Portland on Saturday.
“It is not something we expected, so I think that has made all of us even more grateful for the opportunity to run in Portland,”17-year-old Lexa Barrott, the NXC team’s top runner, wrote in an email to Runner’s World. “It’s a once in a lifetime experience and something that I am sure I will remember for a long time. After all of the hard work we put in this season, we feel as if this opportunity was earned and that we deserve to compete against the best of the best.”