Western Carolina’s cross country teams will compete for Southern Conference titles Nov. 21 as athletic directors voted to move the league championship meet back to the fall.

The meet will be held at the Georgia Premier Cross Country Course in Macon, with Mercer serving as the host school.

The decision was made in an effort to minimize conflict with the indoor track and field season and championships as well as to reduce the amount of spring events created when fall sports were moved to the spring in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The meet will be conducted with enhanced safety protocols, details of which will be announced later.

“This was a prudent decision, since by doing so, it eliminates the training overlap with distance runners who might have had to choose between the SoCon cross country and indoor championships,” said Jim Schaus, conference commissioner. “Plus, it also assists in reducing the volume of competitions and championships in the spring.”

Western plans to add a meet to the fall season to satisfy the minimum number of contests that is required by the NCAA. For this season that number is two, a reduction from the usual minimum of four, due to a waiver granted by the NCAA because of COVID-19.

“I’m excited that the conference decided to move this championship,” Coach Jesse Norman said. “This gives our student-athletes an opportunity to compete this fall after being halted in the spring. I’m also appreciative that the conference took into account the difficulties for our students in trying to compete in two seasons at the same time. Now we’ll just need to find another meet to attend to get our competitive legs under us again.”

WCU returns seven runners from the women’s team with three newcomers. On the men’s side, one freshman and a junior transfer join a young squad that does not feature any seniors.