The Fall athletic season will look different this year, as Westminster College will only have two teams competing: cross country and golf. As meets and tournaments approach in the upcoming weeks, both teams have begun practices and athletes said they look forward to the season.
The women’s golf team has its first tournament scheduled against Colorado Christian University Sept. 14 in Denver, Colorado. The men’s first golf tournament against Sonoma State University will be held Sept.16-17 in Petaluma, California.
Cross country has yet to release its Fall schedule.
The Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference (RMAC) announced Aug. 6 that Fall team sports — football, men’s soccer, women’s soccer and volleyball — will be postponed until the spring. However, individual sports — like cross country and golf — are able to go on as planned.
“As it stands currently with NCAA guidance, cross country and golf are lower risk than all other fall sports,” the RMAC said in a statement.
The New Normal
Amid the pandemic, sports and competitions will look different. Those competing in golf and cross country will be required to wear masks and social distance. Fortunately, both sports require little to no contact — making the guidelines easy to meet.
“This morning we met on the field, everybody was in their masks, coach was in a mask,” said Katie Scott, a senior cross country athlete. “Then we went to Sugar House Park and did some workouts […] It wasn’t until we started running we could finally take off our masks.”
Scott said the ‘new normal’ didn’t stop there. She said before athletes can even practice, they must follow an entirely new routine to ensure everyone’s safety.
Graduate student Cassie Campos, who competes on the women’s golf team, said there is heavy monitoring going on. However, she said she feels safe and lucky to play this fall.
These new routines include athletes reporting to the athletic training room to have their symptoms and temperatures checked before every practice. They must also use the Healthy Together mobile app, which allows individuals to monitor their symptoms and informs them if they need to be tested for COVID-19.
After completing this individual assessment, they present their results to the head trainer. If they pass, all student-athletes must sign in to receive a color-coded wristband — which changes every day — that allows them into athletic facilities for the day.
Although Scott and Campos say they never thought their year would be affected by a pandemic, they said it’s reassuring to know that Westminster and the NCAA are doing what they can to keep student-athletes safe.
Frequent Testing for all Athletes
COVID-19 testing is occurring every two to four weeks for all athletes competing in the Fall season, according to student-athletes.
Scott said the school separated athletes on both the cross country and track and field teams into different pods, or testing groups, based on their specific events.
“They’re going to be testing those pods every two weeks,” Scott said.
She said the idea behind this is to test 25% to 50% of the team on a consistent basis to make contact tracing easier. That way, they can isolate specific athletes in case someone in one of the pods tests positive for COVID-19.
Additionally, all athletes will be tested up to 72 hours before every race.
As the golf teams plan to travel for their first tournaments, student-athletes said the precautions in place will help prevent an outbreak.
“It’s still not completely confirmed but I think we are planning to bus over fly,” said sophomore Saydi Anderson, who competes on the cross country team.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, air travel increases the risk of being exposed to COVID-19 — especially because of the time spent standing in lines and in close proximity to other people.
“First off you would start off in a bus or van, then you would go to the airport which is another contact and then you’d have to get another vehicle,” Anderson said. “So it’s just a lot of different potential exposure opportunities.”
However, Anderson said the buses used for sports travel have enough space for student-athletes to properly social distance.