Catching many athletes off guard, yet pleasantly surprised, President Clayton Rose announced in a campus-wide email on March 9 that the NESCAC has decided to conduct limited competition for spring sports.
While many athletes and athletics staff members are excited for this opportunity, they know that competition is not guaranteed and is dependent on the rate of COVID-19 cases on Bowdoin’s campus and at other colleges.
In his announcement, Rose outlined a number of precautionary measures that the athletic community will take, including a new NESCAC regulation this year requiring antigen tests for all athletes on the day of competition.
“We’re really fortunate at Bowdoin that our testing program that’s in place for our students exceeds a lot of the guidelines that are in place by NESCAC, and in addition to that we’ll be doing antigen testing on the day of competition. All positive antigen tests will result in the cancellation or postponement of a contest,” Ashead White Director of Athletics Tim Ryan said in a Zoom interview with the Orient.
Along with the antigen tests, athletes will also be required to wear masks during competitions.
“Masks will be worn in all of our competitions,” Ryan said. “The lone exception is swimming when our athletes are in the water.”
Despite these differences in structure, Ryan is excited for Bowdoin athletes to compete this season.
“The experience won’t be what it is like during a traditional year on campus, but I’m glad that our students will have the chance to play with their teammates in various forms and represent the college,” Ryan said.
Ana Gunther ’23, a member of the track and field team, was surprised to hear that she would have the opportunity to race this season.
“I was honestly shocked. I wasn’t even sure we’d be having practices this semester, much less racing,” Gunther said in a Zoom interview with the Orient.
Cameron MacKenzie ’22, a member of the track and field and cross-country teams, will not be allowed not to compete this season because she is not in residence. However, she is excited for her teammates to race and is looking forward to the fall season when she can participate too.
“I’m definitely excited that my on-campus teammates have the chance to compete, and I’m excited to be able to support them virtually or from afar,” MacKenzie said in a Zoom interview with the Orient.
MacKenzie is not the only one unable to compete this season. Due to many athletes haven chosen to live outside Bowdoin’s testing bubble and off-campus first-years being unable to participate, many teams are unable to field a full roster.
Yet, there is still optimism for next year.
“I’m excited to be back next year and to be practicing and competing as most people probably would be,” said MacKenzie.
Katelyn Cox ’21, a member of the softball team is planning on enjoying every competition during her final season.
“My mindset is to take every game like it’s going to be my last, because you never know what’s going to happen the next week in terms of [COVID-19] cases,” Cox said.
Athletes have also voiced an appreciation for the more laid-back atmosphere of competition this season.
“I don’t expect it to be a high pressure situation,” Gunther said. “I think it’s going to be really fun and joyful, and with the cheering and the energy, I think is going to be really nice.”
Despite the excitement, Cox knows that the opportunity to compete will be determined based on COVID-19 cases and the risks of interaction.
“I think if we focus on what we can control and ‘this is what we have to do,’ then that will help us in the long run,” said Cox.
Regardless of what this spring’s outcome is, Ryan and the other members of the athletic department are already looking ahead to the fall season.
“We’re optimistic that there will be a full athletic schedule in the fall. There are a lot of factors that will come into play before we know if that will be a reality, but we’re planning for that and hope to be welcoming our students back to campus in late August,” said Ryan.