USATF National Track and Field Junior Olympics at UNF endures positive COVID-19 tests; On-site testing now mandatory for athletes

Carter Mudgett, News Editor

More than 6,000 athletes from across the country have converged on UNF for the 2021 USATF National Junior Olympics Track and Field Championships this week. Participants’ ages range from 7 to 18 as they compete for gold at Hodges Stadium until Sunday, Aug. 1.

Image via USATF website.

“Due to the ongoing global pandemic and after careful consideration USATF has determined it in the best interest of our youth members and clubs to remove all qualification standards associated with the 2021 Junior Olympic National Championships,” states the Guidelines of Participation.

Originally, the plan to help stem the risk of COVID-19 was to have on-site testing available for spectators and athletes alike. The testing process reportedly took about two hours for each individual person to complete. If someone were to test positive, they would be automatically removed from the event. 

Photo by Darvin Nelson.

Today, First Coast News reported that the event was experiencing an outbreak after COVID testing. The General Counsel of Games said that the meet began with a mandatory negative PCR test for all athletes and coaches. Multiple positive COVID tests occurred and resulted in a policy change. 

As of Monday night, the USATF announcement page now states the following:

“USATF will continue following the recommendation of its COVID-19 Working Group and will now require on-site, upon arrival, testing for all competitors (and anyone else accompanying said competitors through packet pick-up), independent of vaccination status. These tests will be rapid COVID-19 PCR tests and will be provided at no cost […] it is important that all meet participants carefully follow protocols designed to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. This includes physical distancing, mask wearing in indoor spaces and in crowded outdoor spaces, and frequent hand washing.”

Photo by Darvin Nelson.

According to the Chief Medical Officer, if positive tests exceed a certain number then the event will be canceled entirely. 

A full schedule for the event can be found here.

One of the staff members working the event shared that the spectator seats were divided into sections, one with vaccinated people and the other with unvaccinated people. Social-distancing was not practiced by most spectators. During the event, shortly after it began to rain, the games were delayed due to a “Weather Delay.”


For more information or news tips, or if you see an error in this story or have any compliments or concerns, contact [email protected].