Track and field on hold for Prairie schools

·7 min read

by Spencer Kemp

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Track and field is a sport that requires minimal contact. While it might be a low-contact sport that is located outdoors, schools in Saskatchewan and Manitoba are putting a hold on track and field this year.

While plans may change with the ever-evolving COVID-19 restrictions, most schools are putting a hold on track and field and planning to incorporate more track activities in their physical education classes.

McNaughton High School

hoping for loosened restrictions

McNaughton High School in Moosomin has been unable to do extracurricular activities through the COVID-19 pandemic, following guidelines and rules put in place by the South East Cornerstone School Division.

Principal Jeff St. Onge says the school plans to run track and field events within phys ed.

“There’s no track and field scheduled. We’ll probably run the track and field events within our phys ed classes and whatnot. But to actually have track meets, there’s nothing scheduled for that,” said St. Onge.

He explains that all extracurricular activities are on hold in the school division regardless if some may have less contact than others.

“What had happened is at a division level is there are no extracurricular activities. They didn’t differentiate one from another or say that one would be safer than the other because one is outdoors and whatnot. It is just sort of a blanket rule of no extracurricular activities. So we don’t run our drama, we don’t run any of our normal sporting events that we would have run and those sort of things.”

The only extracurricular activities that can be done are things that can be done via online platforms such as Microsoft Teams or Zoom, according to St. Onge.

“If we did an extracurricular, it would be online using Microsoft Teams. But that would be something like the SRC or yearbook committee, but that’s online and would not run in-person.

“The pivoting rule that is preventing track and field from running is no extracurricular activities. I know that the SHSAA, Saskatchewan High School Athletics Association, is not running anything. They’re not running provincials or those sort of things.”

St. Onge says that he is holding out hope that restrictions will lift and students will be able to take part in extracurricular activities.

“We have to wait for guidance. Our dearest hope is that we’ll be able to start and do things like golf and cross-country as fall activities. They’re both fall activities and they’re both outdoor activities and they’re activities where you can have some distancing between you. So we’re really hoping that opens up. I do know that we still put all of the plans in place and if things change and they say we can do it we’re already through the planning process.

“We’re doing what we can to keep our kids and athletes in shape. Like I mentioned with phys ed, I know my teachers were talking about how we can start using the track. The management that is going on is just so detailed right now.”

St. Onge expressed his sympathy towards the students but says that the restrictions put in place by both the Government of Saskatchewan and South East Cornerstone have prevented many of the school’s normal activities.

“Our kids need something to do and we wish we could offer it to them,” said St. Onge.

Elkhorn School hopes to host track day

Lance Barrate, Principal of Elkhorn School, says that because of the current COVID-19 restrictions and a lack of track meets, there will be no track and field for high school students this year.

“For our high school track and field, there’s nothing going on there. They would only do a bit of track and field practice in phys ed, so our high school kids would normally have more track practice after school and then they’d go to the zone meets and provincials. But there’s nothing planned for 9-12 because there are no competitions,” Barrate said.

Barrate says that a lack of competition is another issue, noting that Elkhorn School tried to hold non-competitive events that saw minimal interest.

“There’s just no plans right now. I know we had some informal opportunities to play things like badminton, which was one we tried to put together to compete against peers and whatever else, to have some fun. We just noticed that the interest wasn’t there. It wasn’t leading up to anything and they’d rather go work after school or do something else than put time into something where the element of competition is not there. I think that diminishes the interest.”

While there won’t be any track and field for high school students outside of phys ed, Barrate says there are plans to hold track and field days for middle school students.

He says there will be some changes because of the ongoing pandemic.

“I think we’ll do a lot of our standard events, especially like the sprinting events, running events, and our jumping events. Our five to eights traditionally have a track meet together, but we’re looking at doing something with the grade seven and eights one day, then we’ll do something with the grade fives and sixes on another day, and then our K-fours generally have a tabloid day which is like a little persons track and field. Not so much with the track events but just different events throughout the day.

“We’ll probably do a couple of different days there too. We have to nail it down exactly but we’re planning to do things outside in the student’s cohorts.”

Even with the changes, Barrate says there will still be some competition for the students.

“We have a track and field board in our hallway that has the different track records that have been established at our school. The kids will still participate and we’ll still have their results there and they’ll be eligible to break records. We’ll still measure them, we’ll still time everything like we normally would,” Barrate said.

Rocanville school has plans on hold

Rocanville School officials are unsure if they will be able to hold track and field this year.

“There’s no movement on high school track yet. Normally we’d get information from senior admin. I haven’t heard anything yet, so everything is on hold. In previous years we’d have groups from the U of R come out and do some clinics, but that’s not happening. Everything is just on hold.

“With the return to school and the variants, we have to ensure the safety of students and we want to have those traditional community building and fun and engaging activities, but that has to be put aside and safety has to be paramount,” Gowan said.

Rocanville School is planning on a track and field day but is still in the process of working out the finer details.

“We normally do an elementary track and field day from K-5 where everybody participates in every event. We keep track of who finishes first, second, third, fourth, and all the way through, but it’s nothing too much, they get a ribbon them move from station to station. There’s no champion, it’s just fun in the sun and the community comes out and all the grades are out, the Grade 6’s run each event. We just make a big day of it.

“Naturally the world has changed a bit. All the plans for that are on hold right now. I’ve been playing around with some ideas of what if I could spray paint lines and have kids do sprints and long jumps because we have three pits. There are some ideas that are floating around.”

Gowan says that Rocanville School hopes to be able to invite parents and members of the community out to watch and cheer on the athletes, but is unsure of how the current COVID-19 restrictions will impact it.

“It’d be different because you’d only want one group at a time and no parents can come out so it changes the feel. We’re waiting on more guidance from Senior Admin as to what this could look like. We’re used to parents coming out and being a part of it too with the cheering, the sense of community and togetherness,” Gowan said.

Spencer Kemp, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The World-Spectator

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