After Maggie Williams of Summit High School in Bend, Oregon, collapsed at the finish line during an 800-meter race last week, outrage erupted over the state’s mask mandate for athletes — even for runners like Williams who compete with the sun shining on their backs and the wind blowing past their faces.
Her coach Dave Turnbull said Williams, with her mask on, suffered “complete oxygen debt,” the Oregonian reported. Indeed, the paper said she fell face-first three meters shy of the finish line and was unresponsive.
“I’ve been doing this for 31 years, I’ve never seen anybody basically lose consciousness,” Turnbull told the paper. “I’ve never seen that in the way it happened with Maggie.”
And the paper added that one longtime track coach in the state said the Williams’ mishap is “absolute craziness. Are we going to wait until something catastrophic happens? So irresponsible by the authorities.”
The good news — apart from the fact that Williams broke her school record after her momentum carried her across the finish line — is that she came to, and now folks are monitoring her for a concussion, the Oregonian said.
“I am concerned with the mask rule,” Turnbull told the Bend Bulletin after her fall. “This is what I am worried about, and I said this at the beginning of the season. You get a kid running the 800 with a mask on, it is actually dangerous. They don’t get the oxygen that they need. This rule needs to change.”
The coach added to the Bulletin that “unfortunately in Oregon we have to follow the [Oregon Health Authority], and the OHA is not reasonable. I would like those people to come out and run an 800 with a mask on.”
Change of heart
Well, wouldn’t you know it but the OHA said Monday it will no longer require high school athletes to wear masks during non-contact outdoor sports, the Bulletin reported in a second story.
And there may not have been anyone happier than Turnbull.
“This is a big step in the right direction,” he told the Bulletin. “We don’t want to see another Maggie Williams hit the track.”
Still, the state hasn’t dropped its mask mandate for athletes who compete less than six feet apart from each other, the paper said.
Athletes still must wear face masks while training for competitions or directly before and after competitions, the Bulletin noted, citing OHA spokesperson Jonathan Modie.
Earlier this month, a New Hampshire track coach said he was fired after refusing to make his athletes wear face masks during competitions as recommended by the state athletic association.
Bradley Keyes called the mask requirement “senseless, irrational, cowardice bulls**t” in a letter to Pembroke Academy’s athletic director.
The Mayo Clinic indicated that the highest-risk activities for spreading COVID-19 involve unmasked people in close contact for long periods of time, the Bulletin noted.