By: Mathieu Starke
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic colleges have had to adjust to an always changing situation. From masks to social distancing requirements, campuses are always adapting to the numbers and guidance from the state and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Genesee Community College (GCC), a school with a total student body of just over 4700, found itself almost completely remote for the fall 2020 semester.
“We were a large majority off campus but we still had a certain number of classes, whether they were clinical or lab sciences that were still face to face,” said James Sunset, President at GCC.
As the college has started to return to some degree of normalcy, students have been offered to return to in person classes or stay off campus according to Dr. Sunset.
College athletics were no exception to these challenges. GCC has 11 varsity teams that normally compete throughout the year.
“In the fall, with COVID, we were lucky enough to practice (for soccer). We had to come in phases,” said Jeffery Reyngoudt, who is the head coach for GCC’s women’s soccer and lacrosse program, as well at the swimming and diving teams.
While the decision on fall sports not competing during their traditional season was made by the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA), that still left several questions to be answered by the schools involved.
According to the NJCAA, less than 20% of Division 3 members decided to participate in their traditional winter seasons. Among those that opted out was GCC. So, while winter sports weren’t competing in their traditional seasons, preparations for the potential spring season and non-traditional seasons had begun. Among those non-traditional seasons was soccer and swimming.
Kristen Schuth is the Athletic Director (AD) for GCC. Schulth also serves as the Board of Regents representative for the NJCAA and Women’s Regional Director in Region III. She was part of the team that oversaw the athletic departments return to play.
“As a region we came up with a plan. At first we were meeting weekly as athletic administrators just trying to figure out where we are going,” said Schulth. “We are Region III, but downstate, New York City, Nassau, Suffolk, they’re all Region Fifteen. So what we did was we collaborated with the executive committee from (Region XV) with our region and we came up with a plan that was unified. Then we met with the board that represents the Presidents for Junior Colleges in the State University of New York (SUNY) system and showed them our plan.”
“People were all for it (swimming), it ended up going. And soccer, I think we had six out of eighteen (teams), so that went,” said Reyngoudt. “I had swimmers that played soccer, actually soccer players that swam. They were doing both sports, and practicing probably four to five hours a day.”
On March 1, the Cougars of GCC saw their first competition since the start of the COVID pandemic, when swimming and diving participated in a virtual meet with Erie Community College. In total, the Cougars would have a total of seven programs running during the spring semester.
“What swimming started with, we would swim against Erie, they would swim in their pool, we would swim in ours, there was the computer system, we would go at the same time, it would run, it was bizarre,” said Reyngoudt. “You’re competing, but nobody was there. It was odd.”
As of today, students have returned to the GCC campus, and sports are in full back to competing in their traditional season. There are three teams currently competing, and athletics is preparing for the upcoming winter seasons, as well as to host the NJCAA Region III Mens soccer Regional Championship and Womens soccer National Championships this coming November.