During the COVID-19 pandemic, members of IU’s track and field team have continued to train on their own.
Coaches and team members cannot organize practices since the Big Ten announced March 13 it would suspend organized team activities.
Athletes have been running and working out individually while observing social distancing. Teammates have kept in touch with one another by participating in group texts and Zoom meetings.
The Big Ten Conference canceled both conference and nonconference competitions March 12 through the end of the school year.The NCAA released a statement canceling all remaining winter and spring championships that day.
Some members of the IU track and field team were immediately affected, with this news breaking one day before the 2020 NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships were set to begin in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
As reports of cancelations spread across social media and reached coaches and athletes, there was confusion and unsheltered emotion from those involved.
“It was difficult,” IU head coach Ron Helmer said. “We had grown men crying.”
Helmer said the team members were disappointed as the meet’s cancelation sank in. Some of the athletes realized they may never compete again.
“You don’t all of a sudden go to a meet and then be told that you’ll never run a race again,” Helmer said.
Helmer was proud of his team’s work and commitment and over the course of an indoor season that concluded with a Big Ten Indoor Men’s Championship win.
“The initial shock was like something none of us have ever experienced,” junior Ben Veatch said.
Senior Kyle Mau and other team members spent the day constantly refreshing Twitter as news was released. Both Mau and Veatch found out about the cancellation through Twitter.
“That day was probably one of the longest, craziest days ever,” Mau said.
Other team members were told personally by their coaches.
After practice, junior Maddy Pollard left the team’s hotel for lunch with her fellow throwers. The group got a text from throws coach Cory Martin asking them to return to the hotel immediately.
Upon returning to the hotel, Martin informed the throwers of the Big Ten’s decision to pull teams from the meet.
“It was completely heart-wrenching,” Pollard said. “But knowing that it wasn’t just the Big Ten or just our team that was being affected honestly helped us through it.”
Helmer met with all of the coaching staff and team members in one of the team hotel’s conference rooms to explain the situation and present the team with awards for qualifying for the meet.
Multiple competing teams, including Wisconsin and Texas Christian University, were staying at the same hotel. Several competitors were emotional, crying and consoling one another throughout the hotel as the news broke.
After the team meeting, IU athletes ran with members of Wisconsin’s team to discuss what transpired.
“It was therapeutic,” Mau said. “Once people got over the initial shock, that seemed to be the general atmosphere. We’re all in this together.”
The team arranged flights for the following morning and returned to Bloomington. Most of the team has relocated to their permanent residences.
The team spends its time doing online coursework, working out individually and making sure to keep in touch while hoping for a return to normalcy with cross-country in the fall.
“I feel even more fortunate to be a part of this team,” Mau said “I feel like as a group we’ve handled the uncertainty and the challenges that this situation has brought really really well.”