Days after a runner collapsed at the finish line, Oregon state officials have removed the requirement for athletes participating in outdoor, non-contact sports to wear masks during competition.
Oregon was one of the only states mandating masks for distance runners in high school track and cross country, according to OregonLive.
Athletes participating in events where they are less than six feet apart will still need to wear masks, according to The Bulletin, so certain events will need to be adjusted to allow for extra spacing.
“This is a big step in the right direction,” said Dave Turnbull, track and field coach at Summit High School. “We don’t want to see another Maggie Williams hit the track.”
Last week, Williams crumpled to the track at the finish line, but still set a school record in the 800-meter race.
“I felt like I just wasn’t being able to get a full breath,” she said, according to KTVZ-TV.
“Multiple times of that happening, not being able to get enough air just — I just felt super-dizzy, and then eventually passed out.”
“Clearly in the past, this has never happened,” Williams said, “and then this race that I was wearing a mask, it did happen, which I don’t think is a coincidence.”
“She just ran a 2:11 in Arizona without a mask on,” Turnbull said. “Three seconds faster from my experience isn’t going to cause a kid to hit the track. When you’re in a mask, it certainly does.”
Turnbull said he fully believes the mask was to blame.
“It was a different response than I’ve seen for kids that have collapsed to the track just because they were exhausted,” he said. “She wasn’t sure where she was.”
High school athletes must still wear masks while training and during their time before and after events, Oregon Health Authority spokesperson Jonathan Modie said, according to The Bulletin.
Turnbull said he considered not allowing his athletes to compete wearing masks, but after he and Maggie spoke out, the state decided to change the rules.
“We were so fortunate this didn’t end up in a real serious injury with Maggie, but we shouldn’t gamble on the next one,” Turnbull said.
“I feel like we’re offering a safe activity for kids now.”
Williams said she was “very excited that some good can come out of this situation.”
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