The NCAA announced on Friday that athletes affected by the COVID-19 cancellations will receive eligibility relief. This means that student-athletes competing in spring sports—like track athletes—who saw their seasons and championships cancelled will retain their current eligibility next year.
Division I Council Coordination Committee agrees eligibility relief is appropriate for spring sports: pic.twitter.com/u7hwYOyTDV
— Inside the NCAA (@InsidetheNCAA) March 13, 2020
This is a big deal for all NCAA spring athletes, but especially for seniors who were in their final years of collegiate eligibility. When news of the cancellations broke, no plans were immediately announced regarding eligibility relief, and senior athletes across the NCAA were left wondering if they’d played their last game or run their last race.
One of these seniors who dealt with this uncertainty is Charlotte Prouse, a Canadian steeplechaser at the University of New Mexico. Prouse is a two-time runner-up in the 3,000m steeplechase at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, and this year, in her fifth and final year of eligibility, she had her eyes on the win.
“I’ve been second the last two years, so the goal is to always come back and do better than you did last year,” Prouse says. She has been recovering from injury after breaking her foot in January, but she says she felt “good and confident” as she worked towards the outdoor season. Prouse was set to get back to racing in just a couple of weeks, so the news that the season was cancelled came as a big shock to her.
“I still don’t really believe everything that’s going on,” she says. “It’s obviously really devastating, it’s supposed to be my last season here, and I was really looking forward to coming back and going after the title. But at the end of the day, this is so much bigger than NCAA running.”
Prouse is doing a masters in health education, and she says she fully supports all of the decisions and cancellations made by the NCAA and government.
“It’s hard to deal with that first, but you have to take a step back and get out of your own bubble and see that this is a way bigger issue and running is this little blip.”
Prouse says she is unsure what she will do next year. She now has the opportunity to return to New Mexico for another season of racing, and although she had her sights set on an NCAA championship, she isn’t ready to commit to that path just yet.
“I’m looking at all the options in regards to whether going pro now or staying [at university] another year is going to be better for me in my longterm career.”
The NCAA said that “in the coming days and weeks,” the relief eligibility rules would be ironed out and finalized.