Temple track and field reacts to COVID-19 cancellation of NCAA Indoor Championships

Millie Howard was the first Temple University athlete to qualify for the Championships since 2015.

Junior mid-distance runner Millie Howard crosses the finish line to set Temple's new distance medley relay record at the Penn Relays on April 25, 2019 at Franklin Field. | MICHAEL ZINGRONE / FILE PHOTO

After earning several honors and medals, senior middle distance runner Millie Howard arrived in New Mexico for the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championship feeling “ready” to represent Temple.  

Howard had earned All-Conference honors after grabbing three medals at the American Athletic Conference Indoor Track and Field Championships on Feb. 29. 

Howard qualified for her first-ever NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championship meet. The meet was set to take place March 13-14 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. 

It never took place though, as the NCAA decided to cancel all remaining winter and spring championships due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

With the championship’s cancelation, Howard’s senior season ended before the outdoor season started, which was disappointing, she said.

“At the time, it was just so upsetting and I just couldn’t understand why they were cancelling it the day before,” Howard said. “Everyone was there, we were ready to race like, it was just so exciting. Now I’ve got hindsight and can see why they cancelled it. But still, my senior year, I lost the championships, and then my outdoor season is taken away from me too. Everything was taken at once. So it was quite emotional.”

Howard, her father and brother, and coaches Elvis Forde and James Snyder had arrived in Albuquerque on Wednesday, March 11. The next day, the NCAA canceled the meet less than 24 hours before it was scheduled to start. 


“We were actually checking in at the meet, and getting our credentials the day before her mile prelim was supposed to go off,” Snyder said. “But the folks let us know there that day that the championships had been cancelled. We didn’t really know exactly what was going to happen after that.”

Howard was scheduled to compete in the mile semifinal on March 13 with a chance to qualify for the finals the next night. 

Forde is on the NCAA committee for track and field, and he was in “constant meetings” to decide how to deal with the effects of COVID-19. 

The sense of disappointment was everywhere in the arena, Forde said.

“We were right there, then all of a sudden you’re told that all the championships are called off and all your hard work goes down the drain,” Forde added. “And not only [Howard], but for all the other athletes that were there. It was a sad moment watching those young men and women walk out of the arena, knowing that these championships are gone, never to come back again.”

Howard will graduate this year with a degree in economics. She received a job offer from Money Corp, a foreign currency exchange company, in Rhode Island. She plans to take dance lessons, which is what she did the first 16 years of her life until she picked up running. 

As of March 30, the NCAA has granted an extra year of eligibility to graduating spring-season athletes impacted by COVID-19. Howard is eligible as the entire spring outdoor track season was canceled. 

Howard has not decided whether she will take the fifth-year eligibility, she said on March 26. 

Howard has talked about her options with Snyder, who would support her if she decides to come back, she said. Part of her decision will depend on if she gets into a graduate program, she added.

Forde is patiently awaiting a decision but is hopeful that an extra year will be granted. 

“I let those things play out, you know, I can have all the opinions in the world,” Forde said. “It doesn’t really matter what I think. But I think the powers that be will make the right decisions. I’m optimistic and hope that they’re going to let those cases have a year back. I think it would only be fair.”

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