Colby Wilson The Springfield College track and field athlete came back from contracting COVID-19 to put together a career season.

By Carley Crain

Seeing COVID-related stories on the news and through social media showed how many people were contracting the virus, and unfortunately, how many were dying from it.

But sophomore track athlete Colby Wilson never thought it could have been him actually getting the virus. He knew it was possible, but it did not really set in until he got the call saying he had tested positive.

Wilson had an unusual path to the sport of track and field. He grew up playing basketball and baseball, which were his two main sports.

Junior year of high school was when Wilson decided to run track, and he instantly felt a true connection to the sport. He knew it was the right place for him, and despite numerous division one offers while in the recruiting process, Wilson committed to Springfield College only about a year after he started sprinting and jumping.

Wilson now focuses more on the long jump, as well as occasionally running the 60, 100, or 200 meter dash. In his first indoor track season with the Pride, he qualified for the Div. III New England Championships in the long jump, as well as placing fifth at the Eastern College Athletic Conference Championships (ECAC).

“I feel like I am at the right place for who I want to be, both for track and off the track,” Wilson said. “Even only being a sophomore, I have been able to grow as a leader for the jumpers so I have really liked the chances and opportunities I have gotten so far with the team.”

Late in October of the fall semester is when practice started to pick up for the track and field team. Wilson was excited to get back to work with his teammates and coaches, after a long period of no in-person practice.

The day after, Wilson got the call that he had tested positive for COVID-19. Coincidentally, his parents also caught the virus at the same time. His training was forced to a halt and he was soon forced to self-quarantine for ten days. Other members and friends of his from the track team were also required to quarantine.

Wilson ended up quarantining with his parents in his hometown of Tewksbury, Massachusetts, which is a little less than two hours from campus. With the company of his family, isolation was far more enjoyable.

He was able to connect more with his parents and only dealt with mild symptoms such as muscle aches, chest pain and headaches.

Mentally, dealing with contracting COVID-19 was a whole different story. Wilson was constantly battling feelings of guiltiness, anxiety and self-blame.

It was hard not to think it was all his fault. He felt that everyone was shaming him for getting the virus. People were quick to blame. Wilson tried to focus on what he was able to control and worked on mindfulness during isolation. His goals on the track, however, helped keep Wilson motivated during his time away from practice and training.

“Obviously, since there was an outbreak at school, I felt like I was one of the drivers in it. I just had to tell myself it could have happened to anyone,” said Wilson. “Once I kind of came to terms with it, I knew it was in the past and I couldn't do anything about it now and then I was able to move on.”

Sophomore Aidan Harmer, one of Wilson’s best friends at Springfield, also came down with the virus shortly after Wilson had tested positive. He had similar feelings of shame and guilt, but was able to see testing positive was out of his control.

“He was one of the first people I knew to get it, so I made sure he did not feel upset or guilty that he gave it to other people. You can’t really control how it happens,” said Harmer.

Wilson took his 10-day quarantine as just a bump in the road. It was a time when he could rest and recover before heading into his next training block.

He knew that getting COVID during the fall was not the end of the world since no competition was being held. He was confident in his overall training and knew he had the ability to come back even stronger.

“I feel like it was a wakeup call for me,'' explained Wilson. “I have been working harder and it motivated me to take every opportunity I get. I have made the most of every practice, even if it is just a recovery day. I just give my all every day.”

“Going through that experience makes someone more patient,” explained Harmer. “It helps them understand how to be one on one with yourself.”

After quarantine ended for Wilson, he was required to complete a week-long testing regime before jumping back into normal practice, as well as seeing a cardiologist for some chest pain he was experiencing because of his COVID-19 diagnosis.

The goal of this testing is to ease athletes back into a one-hour continuous workout over a week-long time period while moderating any long lasting COVID-19 impacts. The athletic training office refers to this testing as “return to play.” The week started out as 15 minutes of walking, then progressed into 30 and 45-minute jogs.

Although it was a long process, Wilson’s offseason improvement showed at the beginning of his first ever outdoor season in the spring.

In the Pride’s first meet against WPI on April 10, he snagged his first collegiate win and a personal best in the long jump, jumping 6.81 meters. That performance was good enough to land him on the NEWMAC weekly Honor Roll list as Springfield’s top performer of the weekend.

Over the next two meets, Wilson continued to finish first in the long jump to sweep the regular season.

Testing positive for COVID-19 is something that nobody ever wants to experience. Wilson was able to see his personal COVID experience as a time for personal growth and overall improvement.

“I feel like I’ve come into this season with a different mindset. I’ve gone into every meet thinking it could be the last one, and just put my all into every jump and race I’ve ran,” Wilson said. “Even with the postseason, some of us are trying to make nationals, but we don’t know if this will be our last chance to qualify or if the school will let us attend postseason meets. Regardless, I’m very happy to have had the chance to compete and in such a short time, turn in the performances I have. I hope to get to keep competing beyond NEWMACs and get a real shot to qualify for nationals, but as COVID has taught us, I am trying to make the most of every opportunity I get to compete."

Created By
Carley Crain