The novel coronavirus has found its first mark at Teton High School. A student, a harrier on the cross country team, felt some symptoms early last week and a parent took their child to be tested for COVID-19.

For the purpose of personifying without revealing, I will name the student-athlete with the positive test as Omega, hoping, of course, that this is the last positive test in our public school system. Call me naive but my philosophy is to hope for the best and plan for the worst.

Omega has been in isolation at home, under parental direction since that test. A positive result was confirmed on Thursday at which time, Teton High’s administration was notified and the process of contact tracing began. The school leaders in cooperation with Eastern Idaho Public Health began vigorously tracing close contacts: classmates, teammates, coaches.

Understandably, a few of those close teen connections were in the school system. Some of those close teens were on the cross country team. Individuals who have been identified as having had close contact have been sent into quarantine for a 2 week period after the contact. A test returning a negative allows for a return to school and sports activities.

With stringent and rigorous institutional distancing requirements at the school, there are a very few individuals outside of the family circle who may be considered to have had close enough contact to Omega, to have a realistic chance of having picked up aerial-borne virus particles.

Virus Encounters Sport

The cross country team was on a bus approaching Pocatello when the call to Coaches Moosman and Kaufman came through from Athletic Director, Brody Birch. Naturally, Omega was not on the bus but close friends were. The bus turned around and the four-team Blake Stephens Meet was suddenly reduced to a tri-meet. Mr. Birch met the bus on its return to the high school and close contacts were confirmed and sent home with orders to self-quarantine for 2 weeks with a reminder to watch for symptoms.

The team received two blows in the course of 2 hours. Both coaches identified themselves as having been in close contact with the athlete so they too, were to be quarantined. That’s three blows.

In sport, and in cross particularly, the mental perspective and attitude of athletes and coaches is central to the entire cosmology of striving, pursuing, growth, victory and success. Here was a barrage of challenges with real-life consequences of mortal proportions.

Because of the nature of cross country, especially in the age of COVID, events and training are conducted outdoors and usually well-spaced. Masks are worn when the team is close and indoors, while riding a bus for example. So most of the team was determined by healthcare professionals to be at little risk.

Team training was conducted by individual athletes, virtually on Friday and Saturday. Coach Kaufman has received a negative result from a COVID test and will be in charge next week.

Coach Moosman remains in quarantine for another week. He was symptom-free as of this writing and thinking through his new role as Coach-au-virtual.

They each have academic duties within the District. Coach Kaufman is back on the job in the History Department at the high school and Coach Moosman will not be teaching PE at Tetonia Elementary School until he is medically cleared.

The cross team is focused on its next meet scheduled for Friday, the 25th in humble Leadore, Idaho. Teton Cross will field more than half the athletes in this tri-meet that will include Salmon as well as the Mustangs of Leadore. The setting is stark in a high valley suspended between the rugged Lemhi Range to the west and the Beaverhead Mountains which mark the Continental Divide and the border with Montana.

It is an ideal event for a team coming off a forfeit. The course will roll over the foothills at 6000 feet elevation which is the approximate altitude where our athletes train. Altitude will be a factor that will work slightly against Salmon, a contender for the state team title this year in the 2A classification (Teton is larger in the 3A grouping).

Athletes have been reminded to be hyper-conscientious and particular about their social interactions. They feel perhaps, more personally connected to the global story of the current pandemic. The consequences of others’ actions affect them and their actions or inattention can have consequences that reach far beyond their own bubble. We can all take a lesson from that.