Coronavirus impact felt beyond athletes; officials also struggling with lack of events

Sports

Cornie Wassink has been a staple of the track and field officiating scene for 50 years. To not be on the track during this time of year takes some getting used to.

“We’ve never seen anything like this. I officiated my first track meet in 1970, so I think I’ve worked at approximately 1400 meets,” Wassink said. “I’ve seen a lot of meets, started a lot of races, and maybe have a little loss of hearing because of it.”

Coming off of the indoor track and field season, Cornie was ready to get right into the outdoor season right as the coronavirus outbreak hit Siouxland.

“We were just done with the NAIA nationals at SDSU,” he said. “I had the Dickinson Relays, a big high school meet at UNI, and we heard some things. A lot of rumors were going around, but had no idea what was going to actually transpire. And little did I know that that would be the last college meet that the nation would actually see.”

For many officials, their schedule of events is planned far in advance, so they work their day job or family schedule around it. But with the sudden postponement and cancellation of so many meets, it’s leaving many officials without those days of work.

“Northwestern College is supposed to host the GPAC outdoor meet May 1 and 2. And the last time we hosted it we had 134 volunteers and officials,” Wassink continued. “That didn’t count the people taking money at the gate, or concession stands, or anything. So it takes a lot of bodies to run a track meet.”

And the lack of meets, means many officials are missing out on money they originally were planning on having.

“All of a sudden I had 37 open dates on my mid-March to mid-May calendar that weren’t there before. We don’t do it for the money, but obviously the reimbursement for some of our expenses and time is important to us,” said Wassink. “I know in my household part of my track money goes into the household budget. The other part goes to my other vice, which is walleye fishing. So with no track income, I not only have no track meets, I’m limited in my walleye fishing too.”

With how close these officials get to be with athletes and coaches just due to the nature of officiating, Cornie and his fellow officials want nothing more than to see the Iowa high schoolers get the chance to get some competition in this season.

“I’m hoping that we would at least be able to do some abbreviated schedule for the high school athletes that would possibly culminate in a State meet,” he said. “And even though performances are likely to be down because the conditioning won’t be there, it would give those high school athletes the opportunity to finish their track career on the blue oval, which is a big deal for the Iowa kids.”

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