NCAA cancels track & field GLIAC Championship meet last minute amidst COVID-19 outbreak


GVL / Benjamin Hunt

Holly Bihlman, Staff Writer

As the Grand Valley State track & field team was preparing for their highly anticipated GLIAC Championship meet in Birmingham, Alabama, the NCAA called off all events, leaving the student athletes in complete dismay and heartbreak.

The week leading up to the meet was filled with excitement and confidence as the women’s track and field team was ranked No. 1 in the nation, but ended in severe disappointment for the seniors on the team that will never get another opportunity to compete for GVSU after this season. 

The athletes have all managed to remain healthy and safe, but taking a mental break after the shocking weekend and a long season. The outdoor track and field season has been suspended as well, meaning the students will no longer be competing for the rest of the 2019-2020 season. 

John Groendyk, a sophomore on the team, gave some insight as to the events that occurred in Alabama this past week, saying that the first sign of the COVID-19 having an effect on their meet was when the banquet was canceled on Thursday.

Following this announcement, the directors of the meet decided that there would be no audience, just the athletes and coaches which for most families traveling for this event was crushing as well as inconvenient due to travel arrangements. The night before the first day of the meet on Friday, the GVSU athletes were fully prepared to run and actually made it to the pre-meet before they were informed the entire meet was canceled the day of. 

“At that point, there was a lot of questions in our head like, ‘Are we even going to run this,’ which was quickly diffused to a no, the meet is over, even though we had been exposed to all the athletes the previous days,” Groendyk said. “Because the NCAA shut down we couldn’t run the meet. It was a very sad night for the seniors because they came here to compete, the girls were ranked number one, we thought we were going to take home a couple trophies, and a bunch of us just felt robbed.” 

Groendyk summed up the difference in energy throughout the week.

“I’ll put it this way: when we got on the plane to go there we were all confident because we knew that we were ready for it,” Groendyk said. “The return trip home, I mean, complete devastation and just felt like something was taken away from us.” 

Despite the harsh and abrupt turn of emotions, the team members found a lot of strength and leadership during this tough time and relied on each other for support, trying their best to leave the championship on a more positive note.

Sarah Beulla, a graduate student at GVSU, was one of the seniors that felt utterly devastated by this news considering she won’t be eligible for the next season. However, she explained that after the news broke, the sense of family and togetherness helped them get through the heartbreak. 

“Our head coach does a really good job of remaining positive and he said to look at the bigger picture,” Beulla said. “This is bigger than us. We’re healthy and it’s devastating, but I think that us not being able to run was just a little sacrifice that we as a team had to make for the better of what’s going on around us.” 

Amidst their emotional meeting, Beulla said they came together as a team and tried to have a positive outlook on the situation. 

 “There was a lot of tears and a lot of people coming together,” Beulla said. “A lot of it was just the disbelief and heartbreak of it all. We all went to dinner and a lot of us weren’t really talking about the fact that the meet was canceled, we were talking about all the great memories we had together.” 

Unfortunately, the GVSU track and field teams will be retired for the remainder of the season, but all the athletes remain healthy and are back home at GVSU.