The Group Chat: Processing the Coronavirus

Updated: Mar 29

At what point in the preparation process for the National Championships did you realize that cancelling the national meets was a realistic possibility?

Eric: I think when the Ivy League pulled out, it was only a matter of time for everything to get cancelled. Then the NBA set the precedent and everything collapsed after that. I never actually considered the indoor national meet getting canceled as the athletes were already there. I am shocked that the track athletes were unable to compete. My condolences go out to any senior who just ran their last track race ever.

Ben: It wasn’t until the announcement that Rudy Gobert had tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday night that I thought sporting events in general would be cancelled soon. Once that happened, it seemed like a matter of time before every sporting event was cancelled. I held onto some hope that the National Championships would continue since most athletes were already in Albuquerque, but I think most of us knew that it was going to be too risky for the competition to continue as planned.

Sam: At this point, I don’t remember the exact timeline of things, but I do remember that I sent a poll in our group chat and only myself and one other individual voted that the NCAA's should be cancelled. It was certainly something I figured would happen (and should), but as to the exact moment when, I don’t remember dates at this point.

Hannah: I remember Sam sending that poll and thinking he was crazy. I, like a lot of athletes, thought that since all the athletes were already there that there was no reason for concern. However, as I became more informed about the Coronavirus, I became more worried that the championships were going to be cancelled. I don’t remember when I thought it was a possibility, but when the ACC and BIG 10 pulled out their athletes, I knew the meet was not going to happen. You could not have a national meet with two of the Power 5 schools pulling their athletes out.

Maura: I agree with Ben, once the Utah Jazz basketball player was diagnosed, I knew the season was over. The NBA season being cancelled was just the first domino to fall before the NCAA seasons were cancelled. With the way things have escalated in regards to COVID-19, not hosting the Indoor National Championships across the three divisions was clearly the best move.

John: I was under the impression that the NCAA meets were going to be held no matter what. The athletes were already there, they had been warming up in the facilities and I thought the worst thing that would happen would be no fans were allowed in the stands. It’s fair to say that when Rudy Gobert contracted the virus, that sent out a huge shock to people around the country and the NCAA ultimately made their decision.

Garrett: When it was announced that the Harvard athletes had been scratched from the national meet, I began to realize that a meet cancellation was a possibility, but I didn’t think it was likely. However, when I received a text that the ACC and BIG 10 were pulling out of the national meet, it was just a matter of time before the entire event was shut down.

How many current seniors (percent) do you think will return to the NCAA in the spring of 2021 to use their additional eligibility?

Eric: Not a lot, maybe 10%. Depends on how seniors are able to shift their academic schedules to coincide with their athletic goals. Those seniors that stick around will be enjoying life for another year as they will get another year to make more memories with their teams.

Ben: I’m with Eric. The number that I’ve been thinking of has been about 10%. Perhaps we will be surprised to see more athletes come back to use up the rest of their eligibility, but, with this happening in March when many seniors have already had accepted job offers, I don’t anticipate many runners returning.

Sam: I’d guess in the range of 5% to 11%. Sure, coming back sounds like a great option for many, except that paying $10,000+ just to run another season or two is not feasible in most cases (depending on scholarships).

I had this discussion with my physical therapist and we both agreed that any athlete who is good enough to go pro this year will still be able to do such regardless of having national meets. The people who are more likely to return are those who A) Were on the fringe of making the national meets this year or B) Those who have been on the backend of the results at previous national meets. The top runners will (likely) go pro because it aligns with graduation plans and brings in a paycheck.

Hannah: I would say only the athletes who have an extra season of indoor eligibility left will return. That way they could pair it with this outdoor season. That number has to be small. Somewhere less than 5%.

Maura: It will be less than 10%. These senior athletes probably already have graduate school acceptances or full-time jobs to begin focusing on. At some point, a collegiate career will end and although this isn’t the way many expected it to, there are still chances to race in the future. Plus, why would someone train through cross country and indoor track to only race during outdoor track?

John: This is something that is going to be debated for a while. So many athletes already have things lined up for after their graduation that it’s likely 90% of those athletes decide that graduating and moving on is the better option. I’d say somewhere around 10% of athletes come back, but is starting your career more important than another year of eligibility?

Garrett: Looks like the general consensus is that roughly 10% of these athletes will return (and I agree), although I could see something as low as 5%. Were only a few months out from these athletes receiving their degrees. The idea that a heavy number of current seniors will put their life plans on hold at the last minute seems unlikely.

Right or wrong: The NCAA is “unlikely” to grant additional winter eligibility (not factually, I mean impact-wise).

Eric: Right. Those indoor athletes competed in every competition except for one. The worst part is that the only race they didn't run was the most important one. In my opinion, they should have let them run as they would have been able to finish the season and this topic would not have come up.

Ben: Wrong-ish. I don’t think they will, but I think a strong argument can be made that they should. The entire point of a season is to qualify and compete at the National Championships. To lose a season of eligibility in a year when you were unable to compete seems unjust. Of course, there were plenty of athletes whose season ended prior to NCAA’s, so perhaps only those who qualified for Nationals should be allowed another season. Again, this is from an ideal world perspective where athletes receive a just and fair outcome.

I do not think the NCAA will want to give out even more eligibility, especially if they would have to put athletes into different categories. But if you are handing out spring eligibility, then why not add winter too?

Sam: Right. Missing out on NCAA’s is tough, but in the grand scheme of things, athletes made it through 99% of the season. It might not be the most plausible to some, but I don’t think you scratch an entire year based on that. Maybe, just maybe, you grant eligibility for seniors but everyone else definitely no.

Garrett: Right. It stinks, plain and simple. About 95% of collegiate athletes had already finished their season. Additional winter eligibility would be a nightmare from a travel expense and scholarship standpoint and the NCAA could potentially be liable for supporting it (but everyone is in such a major state of uncertainty that it’s impossible to say what the consequences could/would be).

Hannah: Right. Not having NCAA’s sucks, but even if these athletes were to get that indoor eligibility back, how many would take it? In a (possible) Olympic year where contracts are usually worth more, there would be a few athletes who choose to go pro and not return to compete in the NCAA. Then you add in injuries and other runners getting better, the national meet that you wanted to essentially duplicate looks vastly different.

Maura: Right. As hard as it is to swallow, the national meet is just one meet. Athletes raced a few times throughout the season and were able to secure top times and marks. If you look at the descending performance list, athletes can take pride in where they finished after just the regular season and conference meets. It’s hard to justify giving athletes a second chance at an entire season when they had the opportunity to compete in December, January and February.

John: Right-ish. The season was over. The 16-22 athletes who qualified in each event were affected and were really the only ones. Everyone else had a chance to get to their respective event at NCAA's and failed to do so. I think the question is being proposed because NCAA's is the conclusion of that season and therefore the ending of that season’s eligibility. It sucks. It’s going to hurt when they think back on it, but it’d make no real sense to let athletes who were 5th or 6th year seniors to have another year of training and compete during the indoor season.

Currently, on a scale of 1 to 10, how concerned are you that we won’t have a cross country season next fall?

Eric: 2. I’m hoping that we will have COVID-19 under control by then. Since we have made the decision to cancel all of the spring activities, I hope everyone will be able to compete in the fall.

Ben: I’m at a 5. My hope is that we take this seriously in the spring and get everything under control by the summer, but it remains to be seen how seriously people will take social distancing and quarantining. Even if we do go back to “normal” in the summer, my main concern is that we will once again have to use these suppression techniques (i.e. staying at home, social distancing, no big events) in the fall to prevent the virus from making a comeback before a vaccine can be disseminated. If that is the case, then cross country could be affected even if we have gotten the spread of the virus somewhat under control. It is impossible to predict what will happen over the next year so I will stick with the very neutral 5.

Sam: Hot take: 0. First off, this isn’t me thinking there will be a cross country season, because I think it will be very limited IF we have one. It’s more the fact that with what’s going on, cross country is not on my list of concerns.

The likely reality is that this is a 16 to 24 month process of handling this disease. It typically takes 12 to 18 months to produce a vaccine, and that’s assuming it works effectively here. Suppression techniques are not necessarily going to stay as we see them trending, but even over time, we will have to maximize our efforts to social distance because it’s going to be a long time before we have a way to properly fight the virus.

The earliest I see cross country starting is in October, but even then I don’t know. Things are changing so rapidly that it’s hard to guess exactly what actions will be taken now and in the future.

Hannah: 0. I’m with Sam, but for different reasons. I choose to stay blissfully and ignorantly optimistic that in 6 months there will either be a vaccine or treatment readily available for everyone. I think in times like this one that we have to stay hopeful and look forward to something, otherwise we are all going to go crazy as we sit indoors.

Maura: If you had asked me this a week ago, I would’ve been at a 0. However, a lot has changed in one week. I have to go with a 5. I know the cross country season is a long ways away, but things aren’t looking promising in the news. Without a vaccine and a way to control COVID-19 from spreading right now, it will take a lot of change to allow for any sports to resume.

John: I’m at a 3. I haven’t thought too much about the cross country season, but given where we are currently at with the world, it wouldn’t shock me if the NCAA decided to cancel that season as well. I’ll begin to get more concerned if restrictions on travel and going outside continue to be pushed back through the months of May, June and July.

Garrett: I’m going with Eric and being at 2. At that point, the NCAA would also have to put football on hold which is a MAJOR source of income for them. Losing fall athletics would be a nightmare scenario for the NCAA. So unless they’re absolutely forced to or enough schools pull-out (which is a realistic possibility), then I’m not too worried about cross country being cancelled.

What is one secondary effect/impact of cancelling the National Championships and the spring track season that the media is overlooking?

Eric: Accelerating the process for graduating seniors who have to make a huge decision: go back to school or start life in the real world. At least those seniors have a lot of time to think about it.

Ben: A couple things, but all related to the loss of data points. Coaches recruiting high school juniors will now have to do so without track times. We at The Stride Report will have to predict next fall without any spring times. Running is a sport that is already very hard to predict and we have just lost one of our best forecasting tools.

Sam: Considering we are the media, if I write anything here, then the media is not overlooking it. Cop out.

Maura: The fact that college athletes who would have raced at the Olympic Trials, if they happen, won’t be able to secure a qualifying time.

John: I agree with Ben here. The impact of recruiting is going to something we’ve never seen before.

Garrett: The recruiting aspect is a great point, but the scholarships, the roster spots, the additional expenses for travel, the potential inability for some schools to support the extra athletes...there are a TON of implications for programs that were already struggling financially and lacking monetary flexibility. The whole infrastructure of the NCAA is shaking with uncertainty at the moment.

When we look back at this moment 10 years from now, what will we remember the most?

Eric: We will remember how society shifted into a blizzard-like state when no snow was on the ground. This is the illness that caused the most panic as opposed to the Swine Flu or Ebola. A talking point for anyone in the next 20 to 30 years when you tell your kids about your life experiences.

Ben: The time spent in our homes in quarantine will certainly be something I remember as it is hard for me to tell if it has been 10 days or 10 years since I stopped going to school or into work. Additionally, the way that some many people have underestimated this pandemic will stick with me for a while.

Sam: My gut reaction is to say that we won’t remember a whole lot, because “COVID-20”, or whatever they call the next pandemic virus, will have occurred between now and then. The world as a whole was clearly unprepared for this, which is a bit shocking when you consider the fact the United States stockpiles military equipment but not medical supplies. I could easily see a world where events like this occur more frequently, if we don’t take serious measures to prepare ourselves moving forward.

Hannah: I am going to remember the thousands who continued to go on spring break trips and vacations endangering millions of people. S/O to you guys. Hope you enjoyed your darties.

Maura: I’m going to remember how bad Spring Break 2020 was. There was the constant refreshing of my email hoping there was a chance I would return to teaching my students in-person rather than remotely. There were the solo runs where I hoped I would come across someone to run with, granted we were six feet apart. And then there was the fear I would run out of toilet paper.

John: At the beginning of this, it began to pour rain in Los Angeles and it really felt like we were in an apocalyptic movie given all the events going on. It was the first real reality check for millions of US citizens and the way it was handled was rather poor.

Garrett: I’ll remember driving through the main road that goes through the heart of my town (which is packed with bars and restaurants) and town being completely empty. Not another car or person in sight. It looked like the town was deserted. It was a moment that made me realize the magnitude of the current situation.

Last and possibly most important question...what’s your go-to Qdoba/Chipotle order?

Eric: Chicken bowl with brown rice, pinto beans, cheese, medium salsa and guac.

Ben: Chicken burrito with brown rice and lots of cheese. What can I say, I like my food plain.

Sam: Steak burrito, black beans, brown rice, fajita veggies, pico, corn, mild & medium salsa, lettuce, guac. Probably extra everything except meat since they charge for that.

Hannah: First of all, Doba > Chiptole 1000%. Secondly, chicken burrito with white rice, lettuce, cheese, and tortilla chips. I'm a picky eater.

Maura: Neither. I only cook for myself.

John: I knew me and Hannah were friends. Qdoba > Chipotle every single day of the week. Chicken burrito with white rice, pinto beans, lettuce, cheese, sour cream and queso (unless it’s Chipotle, their queso is garbage).

Garrett: John and Hannah now have a special place in my heart. The main order is a flour burrito, white rice, no beans, chicken, fajita veggies, queso, mild salsa, a little bit of cheese and a little bit of sour two cookies.