For the first time since the pandemic halted competitive activity last March, there is a signal of a return to routine. This week, the Slippery Rock University athletic department started administering COVID-19 tests to student-athletes and team personnel.
All student-athletes and program staff will be tested weekly. To remain in uniform, players will need to test negative each week during the semester. If positive results are to occur, contacts will be traced and those exposed will be required to isolate, per CDC standards.
A half-dozen spring sports are primed to play entire campaigns, most of them beginning in March. The clang of metal bats will ring through baseball and softball diamonds. Women’s lacrosse will return to the turf and the tennis team will again be swinging its rackets. The men’s and women’s track teams will throw on their green and white pinnies and partake in events.
The schedules, however, will be subject to alterations related not only to the virus, but also weather. In addition, both men’s and women’s cross-country crews will travel to Lock Haven and pace themselves in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Championships on March 20.
While the long-distance runners will be the only fall sport to contend in the spring months, the rest of the fall and winter squads will be able to restart practices, with the possibility of partaking in scrimmages with outside competition later in the upcoming months.
UPDATE (FEBRUARY 3, 2:00 p.m.) – Interim Athletic Director, Joanne Leight, has responded via email with comments on the athletic department’s testing.
To ensure accurate and timely testing, the department is working with an off-site lab that collects samples and returns test results on a rotating basis, Leight said. The process will normally take between 48-72 hours.
Meanwhile, Leight said, department staff such as athletic trainers and coaches oversee testing and administrative tasks such as record-keeping.
While Leight recognizes student-athletes’ love for competition, she makes it known that their well-being comes first and foremost.
“The interruption in athletics over the past year has been incredibly challenging for them,” Leight said. “We take their health very seriously […] They have been patient and demonstrated dedication and resilience.”