With the New England outdoor track meet already canceled due to interstate COVID-19 restrictions still in place, the CIAC plans to provide Connecticut outdoor track athletes a much-anticipated next step in their season.
The state meets will go beyond just the limited conference/league meets held during the indoor season, and for the first time in over a year bring together as many as 50 to 60 track teams. But with some COVID-19 restrictions and protocols still in place, what will that environment look like?
Henry Rondon, who oversees boys and girls outdoor track for the CIAC, said plans are on hold until May 19 or 20 on how to conduct the Class LL, L, MM, M, S and State Open meets to be held June 1-9. All the meets will be held at Willow Brook Park in New Britain.
“We are very much still in the planning stages of the Class meets and Open since we are waiting to see what May 19 will bring,” Rondon said. “Also, individuals from New Britain must give us their input as to what these events could look like in terms of what their DPH (Department of Pubic Health) will allow them to do.”
Gov. Ned Lamont has announced that on May 19 all remaining business restrictions will be lifted, but that is contingent upon sufficiently low rates of infections and increasing vaccination rates. However, on May 19, the Connecticut Department of Public Health will issue recommendations for indoor and other large outdoor events, as well as clarify where masking will continue. Those recommendations will directly impact a large venue like Willow Brook Park.
There are a number of questions that will need to be answered. What are some of the potential restrictions that people should be aware of with the outdoor track meets? Will fans be allowed and if so how many? Will there be assigned spots for teams to set up to ensure social distancing? Will everyone’s temperature be taken as they enter the park? Will runners need to continue wearing masks when they compete? Will there be constant sanitizing, especially for the pole vault and high jump with athletes landing on the same mats?
“We will definitely have a plan in place by May 19 or May 20,” Rondon said. “The Class meets and State Open, for that matter all state tournaments, will take place in some easy shape or form.
“In track we just need to give New Britain time to have a plan in place.”
It should be noted that the May 19 Connecticut Department of Health recommendations could also impact other track and field events that will be held at Manchester High with the boys and girls Hammer Throw (both June 14), girls Heptathlon and boys Decathlon (both June 15), the girls Steeplechase (June 15) and boys Steeplechase (June 16).