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Side Tracked

Pandemic leads to cancellation of track and field championships 
Story Series
COVID-19

Josh Higgins, ’20, and Matt Lighten, ’22, were in a North Carolina hotel room getting ready to represent Bridgewater State University at the NCAA Division 3 Indoor Track and Field National Championships when word arrived that their coach had called a meeting.

“I remember thinking that something is not right,” Josh said.

His instincts proved correct.

“The first thing he said was, ‘Hey guys, the meet is cancelled.’ He didn’t beat around the bush,” Josh said. “My heart sank.”

In response to the COVID-19 public health crisis, the NCAA canceled all athletic events and spring seasons, including the Division 3 Indoor Track and Field National Championships.

This was to be Josh’s third appearance in the 800 meters at nationals, and he was ready.

“I had qualified for the nationals on two other occasions and couldn’t get past the prelims, but as a senior this year I was confident, I was in the best shape of my life…I thought it was going to be a special weekend, one I will remember for the rest of my life.”

As a sophomore, Matt is currently ranked number two in the country in the 200 meters for Division 3 and was also looking forward to competing on a national stage.

Reigning outdoor hurdles national champion, Jayci Andrews, ’20, did not participate in the Division 3 indoor championships but is devastated for her teammates.

“I could never imagine showing up, ready to go, only to be told to go home…especially after putting in hard work all season,” she said.

The cancelation of spring sports also means that Jayci will not get the chance to defend her national outdoor track and field hurdle title this year.

“I can’t believe it…all of the plans I had for my season, all of the things I wanted to accomplish but now can’t,” she said.

And while there is a lot of heartache, both Josh and Jayci do understand why these actions were taken.

“These situations are out of our control,” Josh said. “But what’s been good to see is how my friends, teammates and competitors have responded to this…it’s amazing how resilient everyone is.”

The BSU standouts may not get to close out their senior years on the track but are looking forward to commencement ceremonies. Both are pleased that university officials are postponing the event instead of cancelling.

“I am very grateful that President Fred Clark is making sure that there is a commencement,” Jayci said. “This celebration is a way for students to appreciate their accomplishments, reminisce on the good memories, the bad ones and to remember lifelong friends they’ve met here at Bridgewater State and most of all, it’s the closure we all need to move onto the next chapter in our lives.”

And when Josh looks back 10 years from now, he will reflect on this time in awe.

 “Yes, this is all mentally draining, but in the end it will all be worth it, it will require a bit of elbow grease, but someday we will look back on this portion of time and think about how we were able to move past it, especially the class of 2020,” he said.

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