The Centennial Conference announced the indefinite suspension of all its fall sports on July 7. 17 out of the 24 Hopkins Division-III athletic teams compete in the Centennial Conference and will not be allowed to play conference games. The Conference noted that this decision would be reevaluated by the end of September.
Hopkins teams had prepared nonetheless for the fall season. The women’s cross country team had been getting ready to defend their National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Championship this season after winning their sixth title in November. Senior cross country runner Ariel Keklak explained what her preseason workouts looked like.
“Since classes were moved to remote instruction I have been running on my own,” she said. “We have been connecting as a team over Zoom to talk about training and have been following training plans as we get ready for the season. I am staying in Baltimore for the summer, and some of my teammates are here as well so we will do some runs together while still following social distancing guidelines.”
Junior defensive back Nick Seidel explained that, similarly, the football team had remote workout plans. However, he noted that not all athletes have access to equipment at home.
“We have a workout schedule from the strength coaches that cover a workout for every day of the week,” he said. “They have been sending these to us periodically so we can change up the workouts. When everyone’s home we all have different equipment at our house, so it’s hard to make a program that fits everyone’s situation. With that, the strength coaches created a plan where you could do it no matter how much equipment you have.”
The Centennial Conference singled out football as the lone sport that would not be reevaluated in September. The sport was deemed to have a higher risk of spreading coronavirus because of the amount of contact exhibited during games and the large roster sizes. The option of playing the football season during the spring semester remains a possibility.
Although the athletes’ preparation will not pay off in their regularly scheduled games, many remain supportive of the decision. Seidel expressed his disappointment about the announcement, but agreed with the need for such measures.
“Obviously, I’m disappointed that we don’t have a season,” he said. “Our team has been working very hard since our season ended last November. It’s a shame that we can’t play, but we all understand why. Football is a high-contact sport and [it’s] impossible to socially distance ourselves against the other team. This virus is not something to take lightly.”
While football features a lot of contact, other sports are more spread out. Each sport will be affected by these policies differently, and Keklak is hoping cross country will be able to return soon.
“The NCAA has deemed cross country as one of the lowest-risk sports, which makes me hopeful that we will still have somewhat of a season,” she said. “However, I think it is the right decision right now to suspend sports because there are so many variables. If we were to travel to a meet, get sick or get others sick when we returned, that's just not worth it.”
Another low-risk sport is soccer, where players are spread out over an entire field and come in contact less often than in football. Like Keklak, junior soccer defenseman Tim Treinen expressed similar feelings about the announcement.
“The health and safety of all Johns Hopkins student is of utmost importance, and I completely understand the decision to suspend and possibly cancel all fall sports,” he said. “Of course, I am very disappointed that there is the possibility of not having a season, especially in the sense that our seniors will not have their last chance to showcase their stuff.”
Many players expressed concerns for their senior teammates. Treinen noted that seniors may be especially hurt by this policy due to missing out on their last year of college sports.
“It is terrible they might not have a final season. I do think all other grades besides seniors have a little bit of the mindset, consciously or subconsciously, of ‘we have another season.’ Seniors don’t have this luxury, as many of them will never play organized soccer in the same way as college sports.”
As a senior, Keklak explained that even if the NCAA allows an extra year of college eligibility, many Hopkins seniors already have post-graduation plans and will not return to school to play for one more year
“As a senior, it is disappointing, but it also is just racing,” she said. “There also is a chance that if the cross country season does not happen, that eligibility can be used next year. This mostly only applies to those continuing with graduate school, but at least the option is there.”
Two fall sports, swimming and water polo, do not compete in the Centennial Conference. While this suspension does not apply to them, their conferences are expected to enact similar policies. However, like cross country, swimming features no person-to-person contact and may return sometime after September.
Coaches and players alike still hold out hope that fall sports teams will be able to hold practices during the suspension. The current plan for Hopkins, drafted by Director of Athletics and Recreation Jennifer Baker, envisions practices where student athletes maintain social distancing measures and do not gather in large groups. Over time the amount of people able to attend a practice would be expected to grow.
In March, Hopkins disallowed fans from attending sporting events. There is currently no plan to lift that ban any time soon. Although the NCAA has allowed athletes to return to campus for workouts, Hopkins has only allowed for the use of online team meetings and individual home workouts thus far.