GAXC Festival, HBCU Challenge Cancelled for 2020 Due to COVID-19

by Steve Underwood

CARY, N.C. – August 7, 2020 – The National Scholastic Athletics Foundation (NSAF) is saddened today to announce the cancellation of the 2020 Great American Cross Country Festival and Cedric Walker HBCU Challenge (which had been scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 3), due to the ongoing impact of COVID-19.

The announcement follows the news this week of a further delay in the state of North Carolina’s reopening plan, which has affected both the availability of the event’s home course at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C., and the start of the school year and fall sports for the North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA).

The current stay-at-home order in Cary is now set to continue through Oct. 4, preventing events like the GAXC Festival from taking place at WakeMed. And on Wednesday, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper announced Phase Two of the state's reopening plan would continue until at least Sept. 11, which means that the start of the 2020-2021 school year will also be delayed until at least then for NCHSAA member schools.

Regarding the HBCU Challenge, the MEAC, CIAA, SIAC and SWAC Conferences – home to more than 40 HBCUs and nearly every one of the team participants in previous Challenges – have all cancelled their fall sports seasons, as has Hampton University of the Big South Conference and most others.

NSAF Executive Director Jim Spier noted that even if the NCHSAA is able to carry through with fall sports and WakeMed opens up later in the fall, it would be extremely unlikely that the GAXC Festival would be able to get any significant out-of-state participation. That fact would also hold true even if the NSAF were to try and have the meet in another state. Prep XC competition this fall is very unlikely to involve teams traveling beyond their borders.

An announcement about a Virtual Great American Cross Country event, allowing for running on various courses around the country, will be made soon.

Above: 2019 GAXC ROC champions Katelyn Tuohy (course record) and Graham Blank, and HBCU Challenge champs G’Jasmyne Butler and Mathew Chesum. Below: The 2019 GAXC ROC team champs from Great Oak HS in California. All photos by Walter Pinion.

Above, the 2019 HBCU Challenge team champs: Fayetteville State U. women and North Carolina A&T State U. men. Photos by Chris Coleman

The first GAXC Festival took place in 1999 and the event was purchased by the NSAF in 2002. It has been hosted at WakeMed Soccer Park since 2009 (in addition to some prior years). Eleven boys' and girls' varsity and junior varsity 5,000m races were contested in 2019, highlighted by the Nike Race of Champions events. The Cedric Walker HBCU Challenge began in 2009, with men's 8k and women's 5k championship races. Early versions of the meet carried the name of Robert Shumake, who provided significant support. The meet was renamed seven years ago to honor late NSAF board member, coach and beloved friend Cedric Walker, who passed in March, 2013.


CONTACT: Steve Underwood, Director of Media & Public Relations, NSAF

About the National Scholastic Athletics Foundation, Inc.

The National Scholastic Athletics Foundation (NSAF) was founded in 1990. It is a non-profit, tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization with the mission of opening doors to the world for our youth, through athletics, and providing them opportunities to succeed. That includes supporting high school and junior-aged track and field athletes in the US through national high school competitions, including the NSAF Indoor and Outdoor Nationals; The Great American XC Festival and Cedric Walker HBCU Challenge; and the American Javfest and Ironwood Throws Classic. It also includes Team NSAF international competition and team-building events in Cuba and Iceland; clinics and event-specific special projects, such as Project Javelin Gold and Project Triple Jump; vigorous grant programs, which enable high school athletes to compete around the country, at USATF Junior Nationals, and internationally; and with program development grants, which are awarded in the winter and fall each year. The NSAF provides approximately $250,000 in grants annually.  For more information about the NSAF, please visit

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