Every athlete at Clark University has had a defining call to action, a moment that summons their inner strength and propels them to excellence on the field. When it comes to this year’s athletes, that call to action was more like a whisper of remembrance. With the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) cancelling this Autumn’s Division III athletic seasons, Clark Athletics prematurely cancelling their last week of practices, and with a cloud of uncertainty hanging over the fate of next year, hope seems to be in short supply. In the face of these challenges, strength still managed to remain more intact than ever. This year amid unprecedented uncertainty for the future of Division III athletics programs, Clark athletes stepped up their game two-fold.
Throughout this semester, all 17 athletics teams trained throughout the duration of the Fall season. This required a number of adjustments being made by the Athletic Department at Clark. Mandatory mask-use and dividing teams into smaller groups was an effective path for minimizing the COVID-19 virus transmission, while still giving individual athletes the training they needed to stay competitive for future competitive seasons. Director of Athletic Communications Kyle Prudhomme spoke about the success of the overall season, attributing the program’s success to the focus student-athletes had in protecting the health of their fellow teammates. “I believe the department adapted well, but in the end, all credit goes to the student-athletes,” Prudhomme stated. “They recognized the importance of keeping up with the new health procedures and welcomed the opportunity to stay active with their teammates and coaches, even if that looked different than normal.”
Unfortunately right before the last week of athletic training, Clark University experienced an influx of new cases that quickly led to the Clark Administration cancelling the last week of both athletic activities and in-person classes. This cancellation came before the Healthy Clark Dashboard reported 18 new COVID-19 cases in the past 7 days. Many student-athletes expected an influx of new cases, questioning when it would happen rather than if it would happen. “Honestly, I wasn’t surprised. Since we started off really well, many people became relaxed. It was only a matter of time before there were more positive cases on campus,” said David Henriques (‘22).
The unorthodox season also had a very significant impact on first-athletes, all of whom had their first year participating in collegiate athletics amid a global pandemic. Many Coaches at the Athletics Department expressed confidence in their team’s collective ability to bring first-year athletes into the fold. This included Coach Pike of the Clark Men and Women’s Cross Country Team. “This group of first years had an experience no one else had gone through, so I think there was great value in giving them some idea of what a normal season feels like,” Coach Pike stated. “They should have a good degree of preparedness for upcoming seasons.” Many returning runners on Clark’s Cross Country Team also expressed how the team had not lost it’s competitive touch, despite the cancellation of official meets. “I really liked seeing everyone on the team improve and run better times in our team time trials.” said Men’s Cross Country Captain Ben Ryan (‘21).
This semester also marked the debut season of the Clark Women’s Lacrosse Team. Coach Julia Beer spoke with the Scarlet to help us get a better understanding of how the newly launched team managed to navigate the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. Coach Beer chalked much of her team’s success to the dedication on display by her athletes. Our team is so smart and competitive,” Coach Beer stated. “They didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about and mulling over outcomes, they spent their energy on trying to improve, adjust, and compete. Their urgency was awesome! I’m very proud of them.”
Overall Clark’s Fall 2020 athletic season will be one defined by strength. Student-athletes kept their determination and work-ethic in the face of absolute uncertainty, a trait that future Clark athletes would be wise to hold onto as well. This Fall season may be remembered for its uncertainty, but it will always be defined by strength. As we move into an unwritten future it’s important for student-athletes and non-athletes alike to stay strong and stay healthy. Our future as young people depends on that.