COVID-19 Strikes Again: Winter Sports Canceled

This past week, the North Coast Athletic Conference canceled the Winter Sports Championship, suspending conference-sponsored competition for the winter season. For Oberlin, this affects the basketball, swimming and diving, and track and field teams. While the news did not come as a surprise to most athletes after the cancelation of the fall season, it is still a great disappointment. 

“I was upset that the season got canceled because I felt like I could have had one more great season before graduating,” said College fourth-year Farzad Sarkari, who plays on the swim and dive and track and field teams. “But at the same time, I knew something like this was going to happen since a lot of other schools were getting hit in the athletic department.”

In a statement to GoYeo, Delta Lodge Director of Athletics and Physical Education Natalie Winkelfoos explained that the decision to suspend competition is necessary to ensure the health and safety of Oberlin College students and the surrounding community. 

“Unfortunately, there is still much uncertainty around the exposure to COVID-19, even with the vigilant oversight, testing, compliance, and safety protocols we have been following,” Winkelfoos said in an Oct. 16 email to students. “I, along with our coaching staff and administration, remain committed to providing an engaging student-athlete on-campus experience.”

Coaches and staff have worked tirelessly to support student-athletes and create a competitive environment without regular competition. The cross country and track and field teams held their first virtual 5K this month, and similar virtual events are in the works for the swimming and diving team. 

President Carmen Twillie Ambar assured that competition will return to the College once safety can be ensured. 

“This is a difficult decision, but it is the right decision at this time,” said President Ambar in the Oct. 16 email. “As someone who trains daily, I know how important athletics is to a person’s well-being. Athletics will return to Oberlin when it is safe for everyone. Athletic competition is critical to the campus experience.”

For the men’s basketball team, this season has already been challenging, as the team only has six players currently on campus and three that will return for the 2021-22 season. Despite this, Head Coach of the Men’s Basketball Team Isaiah Cavaco is looking forward to working with the players. 

“For the players returning after this season, this time is about developing their skills and confidence so that they feel ready for next season,” he said. “But it’s also a nice time as a coach to reevaluate why and how we do the things that we do so that we can maybe be more efficient with our time. If anything, COVID-19 has taught us how valuable our interactions are, and you don’t want to waste any time you have with your players or coaching staff. So this is an opportunity to just make ourselves better and get the most out of everything.”

For Sarkari, who also lost his fall track and field season, this winter will be about continuing to build community. 

“Given all the changes and the lack of a season for swimming and track, I’m just going to try and connect with all my teammates as much as I can,” he said. “Oberlin athletes should take this time to connect more with their fellow teammates and even members of other sports. We’re all in the same boat, so we should be there to support each other.”