Delta athletics opts in for ‘Spring 2’ sports season

Delta's Bucky Layland softball complex is closed during the pandemic on the campus in Stockton, Calif. on March 15, 2021. Photo by David Victor

Delta College’s athletics department is moving forward with discussions in hopes of resuming sports competition after opting into the Spring II season.

The athletics department opted out of Spring I due to a spike of COVID-19 cases in December, but now it seeks to put its student-athletes back on the playing field by the end of March and beginning of April after a year of competitive inactivity forced by the pandemic.

Track and field, swimming and diving, baseball, softball, beach volleyball and men’s golf are the teams slated to participate in late-spring competition.

However, there is still a possibility Delta may not participate.

Director of Athletics Tony Espinoza said the athletics department is still discussing how it will resume activity, and the decision to opt in is helping prolong the discussion.

“By opting in we give ourselves more time to continue the conversation regarding our return and allows us for all possible options,” said Espinoza. “It allows us to see what spring sports will look like come the end of March and the beginning of April.”

A full-scale return to campus for all teams to practice is still uncertain.

The practice start date for Spring II is March 27 and competition is scheduled to begin on April 10, but Espinoza said the athletics program will go through with a return plan based on the perspective of state and local authorities.

“The most important part here is that the state moves our county when it is safe to do so,” said Espinoza. “San Joaquin County remains in the purple tier, a return to the red tier will allow us to start the return process for athletics. We look forward to an opportunity to return and work with our athletes on campus.”

Student-athletes are eager to compete and are ready to return after a year of remote training.

“I’m ready to see if my hard work pays off and excited to see if we get our season,” said Mustangs track and field distance runner Justin Sherman.

Mustangs track and field thrower Alexis Pagala is also anxious to compete as soon as possible.

“I’m going into this season with a drive like I’ve never had before,” said Pagala. “This team won’t be settling for a closed season.”

According to a Nov. 6, 2020, press release from the California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA), the organization’s contingency plan is only a framework and that the final decisions to participate in competition should be left to the schools in consultation with their local health authorities. Additionally, the release states that colleges could opt out of competition after the opt-in date.

Schools opting in to competition are required to consistently test their athletes and staff for COVID-19, which is now a possibility on campus after Delta College became a public testing site in February.

How the athletics department will go through with the testing process is currently under review.

“Upon our return we will need to meet current IHE [Institute of Higher Education] guidelines for testing. Those guidelines require 25 to 50 percent of the population [athletes and staff] being tested every one to two weeks,” said Espinoza. “We are still finalizing the details of the testing.”