NCAA turns to virtual athletics; Runners start seasons online

Greer Strine, Sports Editor

    Athletes in high school are not the only ones doing virtual sports. NCAA athletes are also participating in this new way of doing sports. According to the NCAA, colleges across the nation are doing virtual seasons this year.

     North Harford alumnae Cassidy Chandler runs cross country and track for Messiah University, a NCAA Division III school, which has also decided to  compete virtually.  Alyssa Santoro  also runs for a  Division III school, Salisbury University. Another NH alumnus, Will Tikiob, runs cross country at Lehigh University which is a NCAA Division I school. 

     Chandler commented, “We run a certain race against the other teams in our conference, the Middle Athletic Conference (MAC). The top places for each team get scored and we compete against the other teams and then there is a winning team just like there would be if we were racing.”

     Messiah had started three phases to participate in athletics. Chandler stated phase one was running in pods of eight, which were determined by who they lived with or were around with only two practices with their coach per week. Phase two was more coach lead practices and phase three was full team practices, while running in packs, but wearing masks when within 10ft of one another. 

     Santoro states, “Salisbury cross country and other sports have just strictly been practicing with no competition, however we have been having many timed trials to make up for the lost meets.” She also adds, “the hardest part about not having meets is that we are all putting in so much work and effort but not being able to show our progress and compete.”

     For the Division I athletes Tikiob said, “The NCAA cancelled all D1 championships and our league (Patriot League) has also cancelled any meets that would occur right now, so at the moment we have no official races to run.”

     Chandler said that every school in the MAC is also participating in this same season format and are all competing against each other. With COVID guidelines in place from the CDC, athletes are already required to follow new standards.  “We got into phase three which means we are back as a team with some regulations. (All with masks unless outside and 10ft apart) Unfortunately, last week a member of our girls’ team tested positive for the virus, so now we are back in phase one running in our pods again two days a week, the other days on our own,” according to Chandler.

    Tikiob states, “For right now, everything is online because of an outbreak on campus, so they’re hoping to get everything opened up by the 23 of Oct.” Tikiob had started the year being able to run with his teammates and what he missed most was “having cookouts and parties with the team, but now we cannot do any gatherings together.”

     Even though the season was not eliminated, the loss of the physical season means the teams lose the opportunities of what makes the season more normal. According to Chandler, “I miss going to meets because the trips we take are always so fun! Last year we got to travel to some cool places like Connecticut and New York; this year we are limited to on-campus races. Even the bus ride is super fun and makes for great memories. The energy at meets is also a lot more encouraging with lots of fans.”

     According to Santoro, “Normally we would be competing against other schools and traveling, however this year we just did multiple time trials every other week at different distances to mimic meets. Practice has been overall the same besides now we have to wear masks most of the time in practice.”

     Although virtual cross country wasn’t exactly what Chandler was hoping for, she states, “Having virtual meets isn’t the greatest thing, but I am very thankful that we can race at all, because I know lots of teams don’t have this opportunity. It’s amazing the ways God is working through our team currently to teach us lessons in patience and how to love one another and love running in a new way.”