Maggie Williams, a student at Summit High School in Bend, Oregon, collapsed at the finish line during an 800-meter race last week. The incident sparked outrage in the community over the state’s mask mandate for athletes, which even applies to runners who compete outdoors in the heat.
Dave Turnbull, Maggie’s coach, said that with her mask on, she suffered “complete oxygen debt.” Maggie collapsed face-first just three meters away from the finish line. She was unresponsive.
“I’ve been doing this for 31 years, I’ve never seen anybody basically lose consciousness,” Turnbull said. “I’ve never seen that in the way it happened with Maggie.”
Another longtime track coach in Oregon said that Maggie’s incident was “absolute craziness. Are we going to wait until something catastrophic happens? So irresponsible by the authorities.”
Maggie broke her school record after her momentum carried her across the finish line. She also came to shortly after and is now being monitored for a concussion.
“I am concerned with the mask rule,” 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.”
“Unfortunately in Oregon we have to follow the [Oregon Health Authority], and the OHA is not reasonable. I would like those people to come out and run an 800 with a mask on,” Turnbull added.
On Monday, the OHA said they will no longer require high school athletes to wear masks during non-contact outdoor sports.
There may not have been anyone happier about the decision than Turnbull.
“This is a big step in the right direction,” he told the Bulletin. “We don’t want to see another Maggie Williams hit the track.”
However, the state still requires masks for athletes who compete less than six feet apart from each other.
Also, athletes still must wear face masks while training for competitions or directly before and after competitions.
Earlier this month, a New Hampshire track coach said he was fired after refusing to make his athletes wear face masks during competitions as recommended by the state athletic association.
Bradley Keyes called the mask requirement “senseless, irrational, cowardice bulls**t” in a letter to Pembroke Academy’s athletic director.