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Athletes face emotional blow as pandemic uproots college sports

Early mornings, late nights, countless hours of training. And now, perhaps nothing to show for it.

a group of people standing in front of a crowd: Along with the men's and women's swim teams, Dartmouth discontinued men's and women's golf, and men's lightweight rowing.

© Provided by Connor LaMastra
Along with the men’s and women’s swim teams, Dartmouth discontinued men’s and women’s golf, and men’s lightweight rowing.

That’s a glimpse at the uncertainty for college athletes across the country who have had seasons derailed. In some cases, their programs have even been cut altogether as schools react to the health risks and financial ripples of COVID-19.

The pandemic has shaken the college sports scene to its core, dealing an emotional blow to athletes as they’re forced to stay on their toes about the status of their careers.

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Some college football conferences have made a loud return to action, but many athletes in lower revenue sports – the runners, swimmers, golfers, and soccer players – are still waiting to take the field or hear if they’ll be able to compete again.

Many athletic conferences have pushed non-football fall sports to the spring. But with CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield saying a vaccine won’t be widely available until mid-2021, even that timeframe could make it difficult to restart sports en masse while keeping everyone safe.

College football and COVID-19: A big, disjointed experiment exposes scientific, political gaps

Between the decisions made by schools, conferences, local and state officials or the CDC itself, the fates of so many athletic careers rest in the hands of higher powers.

Some students have already been dealt disappointing results.

‘A total slap in the face’

Wrestlers at Old Dominion, swimmers at UConn and baseball players at Boise State are all in the same boat. So are athletes from 11 different athletic programs at Stanford and seven different teams at George Washington.

They’re among the dozens of programs that have been cut by colleges this year, leaving athletes with a nerve-wracking decision: To stay at their school or transfer to continue playing the sport they love.

Connor LaMastra is one of those athletes.

He spent his junior swimming season littering his name across the Dartmouth record books. He broke school records in three individual events. He was on the fastest 800-yard freestyle relay in program history. And after delivering what he called his most successful conference championships as an individual, he was named captain for the 2020-2021 season.

The stage had been set for LaMastra – a swimmer since he was 5 years old – to have a senior season he could cherish when his swimming days were over.

a person swimming in the water: Connor LaMastra was named captain for the Dartmouth swim team before the program was abruptly cut.

© Provided by Connor LaMastra
Connor LaMastra was named captain for the Dartmouth swim team before the program was abruptly cut.

When administrators scheduled a mid-summer Zoom call with athletes from five athletic programs, swimming included, LaMastra thought they might learn their season was canceled. But the news was heavier than that.

Dartmouth cut the swimming and diving programs completely. Men’s and women’s golf and men’s lightweight rowing were done too, effective