Dillingham's cross-country team is up and running amid pandemic precautions

Aug 20, 2020

"We’ve been working together to put a plan in place that does our best to keep the kids safe while participating in a school activity," says Head Coach Amanda Luiten. 

High school boys start a race in Dillingham. Sept. 2019.
Credit Tyler Thompson/KDLG

School is starting next month, and a big question for families, staff and students is whether athletic programs will continue during the coronavirus pandemic. The Dillingham City School District says they will, as long as each program submits a safety plan. The teams must state health mandates and local ordinances, as well as recommendations from the Alaska School Activities Association and the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.

Dillingham High School’s cross-country team has already started its season

“The coaching staff and DCSD administration — we’ve been working together to put a plan in place that does our best to keep the kids safe while participating in a school activity,” explains Head Coach Amanda Luiten. “We don’t foresee any issues, we’re telling people it’s a year for flexibility. We just take it day by day and plan for unexpected circumstances as much as we can.”

Athletes don’t have to wear masks while running, but they are required to do so in locker rooms and during team meetings. During races, the athletes must stay 6-10 feet away from others — that includes when passing other runners on trails.  

The school district has yet to determine travel plans. A draft plan said athletes would be allowed to travel to other communities in the Dillingham Census Area, as long as Dillingham remains in the low-risk category, that is, with no community spread of the disease. Other schools would be able to participate in Dillingham’s competitions, as long as they are in low-risk communities as well. 

Despite all the changes, Luiten says she’s excited for the season. 

“I feel supported with staff already offering to help if at all possible. Even community members are already reaching out to cheer from a distance,” Luiten says. “I won’t lie — I’m nervous. But I’m also excited. With these feelings, Coach Tweet and I will do our best to keep the kids safe while having fun and working towards goals.”

Summer practices are held weekdays from 3 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. The cross-country team’s COVID-19 mitigation plan can be found on the school’s website.  

Arctic Chiropractic in Dillingham is offering free physicals for any student athlete on September 7 from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.

Correction: The school district has not yet determined whether to permit travel for athletes. It has not decided to allow students to travel to other communities in the census area, as originally reported.

Contact the author at brian@kdlg.org or 907-842-2200.