HS Runner Collapses at Finish Line Due to 'Complete Oxygen Debt,' Coach Points Finger at Mask Mandates


An Oregon high school track and field coach has brought up serious concerns about the state mask mandate after one of his runners collapsed at the finish line Wednesday.

“I am concerned with the mask rule,” Summit High School track coach Dave Turnbull told the Bend Bulletin. “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.”

High school athletes in Oregon are required to wear masks during competition under Oregon rules to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

The problem of wearing masks while running came to light during the 800-meter race.

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Maggie Williams was racing the two laps around the track and on her way to break a school record when she fell right before the finish line.

“I was pushing so hard and everything went blurry and I just fell,” the high school junior said.

“But luckily I fell at the right spot and crossed the line with my head.”

She skidded across the line in a record-breaking 2 minutes, 8.45 seconds.

Turnbull called the situation “complete oxygen debt” and called on the Oregon Health Authority to follow Washington’s lead and lift the mask mandate for track and cross-country runners, according to OutKick.

“Unfortunately in Oregon we have to follow the OHA,” Turnbull said, according to The Bulletin.

“And the OHA is not reasonable. I would like those people to come out and run an 800 with a mask on.”

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The coach wrote a letter to the Oregon School Activities Association detailing the danger that wearing a mask could cause his athletes, the Oregonian reported.

Oregon is the only state in the country that requires its runners to wear masks while competing and high school coaches have seen more “gasping, oxygen-depleted runners” this season than they have in the past.

Oregonian columnist John Canzano said the rules need to change “before someone gets seriously hurt or dies.”

“[Maggie Williams’] first lap was a thing of beauty. The second one should have ended with her breaking the finish line on her feet, gasping but with a smile,” Canzano wrote.

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“Instead, she ran out of oxygen. Her brain shut down. Her lungs quit. She landed on her forehead. Couldn’t hear. Couldn’t see. Her body crashed across the finish line. I wonder if state leaders will notice.”

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Erin Coates was an editor for The Western Journal for over two years before becoming a news writer. A University of Oregon graduate, Erin has conducted research in data journalism and contributed to various publications as a writer and editor.
Erin Coates was an editor for The Western Journal for over two years before becoming a news writer. She grew up in San Diego, California, proceeding to attend the University of Oregon and graduate with honors holding a degree in journalism. During her time in Oregon, Erin was an associate editor for Ethos Magazine and a freelance writer for Eugene Magazine. She has conducted research in data journalism, which has been published in the book “Data Journalism: Past, Present and Future.” Erin is an avid runner with a heart for encouraging young girls and has served as a coach for the organization Girls on the Run. As a writer and editor, Erin strives to promote social dialogue and tell the story of those around her.
Tucson, Arizona
Graduated with Honors
Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, University of Oregon
Books Written
Contributor for Data Journalism: Past, Present and Future
Prescott, Arizona
Languages Spoken
English, French
Topics of Expertise
Politics, Health, Entertainment, Faith