My college sports season was canceled — and I’m actually relieved | Opinion – Detroit Free Press


As a cross-country and track runner entering my senior year at Albion College, I’ve spent my summer training for a season that will never happen.

On July 30, the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA), Albion’s sports’ conference, made the decision to postpone all conference competition for fall sports to the spring. The following week, the NCAA canceled Division III championships across all fall sports.

In the days since, I’ve found myself revisiting the grief and loss I experienced last March, when the pandemic ended my team’s track season prematurely. But this time, my sadness is accompanied by an acute sense of relief, because I understand, in a way I did not last March, that these decisions were entirely necessary.    

 Now, as I prepare to return to my campus and my teammates, it’s becoming clear that although our meets have all been canceled, the thing that makes us a team endures. If anything, our lost season has brought us closer to one another. 

Alone together

I’ve been training on my own this entire summer.Physically, I’ve been alone on my runs and workouts. But my teammates’ presence has been with me every step of the way. Each run I do isn’t solely for my own benefit.  It’s for the conference championship we wanted to achieve together. It’s for a title at regionals, a shot at going to nationals. Every step I take on every run is for my team.

My workouts are sometimes wistful: I amgrieving the loss of road trips and competitions. In hindsight, I realize that have I have been grieving this season all summer, because a normal season was something I lost a long time ago without ever really realizing it.

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Even before fall competition was canceled outright, I knew any meets that could be salvaged would be radically different than the ones we were used to. There would be no spectators. We would need to wear masks between races, and to keep our distance from our competitors and one another. There would be no hugs, nor even sweaty pats on the back, when we crossed the finish line. 

We all knew we would miss those things and that no victory medals we collected would compensate their loss.

Redeeming the season

Now, with even victory medals out of reach, the Albion Athletic Department is working its hardest to make practices possible for athletes this fall. 

When I first heard we could practice together but not compete, I didn’t understand the difference. Either way, I’d be coming into contact with more people than I’ve seen in the months I’ve been quarantining at home.

But  now I know that while competition has become too risky, practices can be made safe. We will keep our circles small. We will stay on campus, and we  will see almost no one, except our roommates and one another, at a close proximity. We will stay in our bubble, and we will work together, the way our sport has taught us, to maintain and strengthen the protective barrier it provides.

As teammates, it’s our responsibility to hold one another accountable. Just as we always hold one another accountable for finishing workouts and giving races our all, we now have the responsibility to make sure that we are doing everything we can to contain the virus. I know that every time I wash my hands, every time I put on a mask when I’m heading out the door, every time I make the decision to stay six feet away from someone I’m talking to, I will be honoring my commitment to my teammates.

 Despite all that we have lost, we have the opportunity to preserve what makes our sport, and the effort we expend to excel in it, worthwhile. This could be the season we win it all.

Jordan Revenaugh is spending the summer as an intern with the Free Press Editorial Board. She lives, for now, in Rochester Hills.

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