EDWARDSVILLE - For many years, SIU-Edwardsville's famed Mud Mountain cross-country course has been the scene of many a great high school meet as well as college meets, oftentimes hosting an Illinois High School Association state sectional meet as well as very important Edwardsville High School meets.

That era may very well have come to a close.

It was recently announced that the Mud Mountain course, along with other facilities on the SIUE campus, will be closed to outside organizations during the 2020-21 school year, citing among other concerns the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

And the announcement has sent Edwardsville High scrambling around for a new course, particularly one that lies withing the boundaries of the Edwardsville School District.

"SIUE is not allowing any outside organizations to use any of their facilities this fall because of COVID," said Tigers head cross country coach George Patrylak.
"We're not looking for money, per se, we're just trying to keep it in the Edwardsville School District."

The search to find a new cross country course could lead to an alternate site near Ralph Korte Stadium/Bob Guelker Field, the Cougars' home stadium for both track and field and soccer. However, the Tigers' coaching staff, as well as cross country alumni are still searching, and there is a plan in place for a new course.

"Some of the coaches, and the assistant coaches, have been out there, and all of the schools use the Edwardsville course," Patrylak said. "We do have something planned, and we have a tentative course planned. That's not to say we won't use Mud Mountain again, but I do hope to use Mud Mountain again."

The tentative course that is being planned is a very fast course, and will utilize the land that's available for the meets, but Patrylak also knows there's other options on the table for the Tigers to use this upcoming season.

"We still get the tradition of SIUE, and that's still not a bad thing," Patrylak said. "But we're still looking at other options to make the course more challenging. I would like to make it a true cross country course, not to make it as challenging as Mud Mountain, and to make it have more character and more challenging than Korte Stadium."

And even with a new course, the season could be in jeopardy, due to the pandemic. Both Granite City and Gillespie recently announced that they would conduct online E-learning for their students at least through the fall semester, with East St. Louis also announcing that its teachers would be in school, but students would begin E-learning as well. The IHSA also will have its regular board of directors meeting this Wednesday, July 29, postponing its meeting to discuss how the pandemic is going with both the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Illinois Association of School Boards this past Wednesday. A decision on what could happen to the fall season may be made at that meeting.

"With Granite City and Gillespie going to remote learning, I feel that more schools could follow," Patrylak said, "and then with the IHSA turning all authority to the state, I wouldn't be surprised if the seasons are cancelled. I'm just curious to see what the ultimate decisions are."

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Dan Brannan also contributed to this story

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