First-year students missed one of the biggest Drake traditions when it was canceled due to the pandemic last year: Relays.
These students, now sophomores, remember hearing about Relays before they made their decision to attend Drake.
“I had heard that Relays was Drake’s version of homecoming week,” sophomore Tia Beenblossom said. “Every student that talked about it seemed very exciting and enthusiastic about participating in Relays traditions.”
Sophomore Karin Berdahl was even more excited after getting a job with Drake Catering, which would have put her in the middle of the Relays action.
“[I heard] that it was massive and so much fun,” Berdahl said. “I was so excited to experience Painted Street and all the other activities that surround the Relays weekend. I also am a part of Drake’s Catering services, so I would have been busy but also at the center of the action, which would have been so much fun.”
While Berdahl was disappointed, she said that canceling Relays last year was the right decision on Drake’s part.
“The worst thing that we could have done in regards to COVID would be to put a stupid amount of people in a single building, cheering and yelling around athletes who are breathing really hard really close together,” Berdahl said. “It would have been the super spreader of all super spreaders.”
This year, Berdahl is looking forward to participating in traditional Relays events.
“I am really excited for painted street,” Berdahl said. “It will definitely be way better than being at home last spring.”
However, concerns still linger about the potential for COVID spread, even with reduced attendance numbers due to the pandemic.
“COVID isn’t done so I am a little freaked out about everything,” Berdahl said. “And I think I will miss the feeling of being packed into a crowd and being excited. That energy is lost when we have to be spaced out. It will also narrow who gets to watch and I feel like the students are going to be the ones cut out of that equation.”
Beenblossom shares some of these concerns with bringing Relays back a year into the pandemic.
“I think that having Relays will make campus feel more normal, as it is something that the Drake community took part in before the pandemic,” Beenblossom said. “However, I do worry that we are returning to a sense of normalcy too fast and that the return of Relays will reinforce the falsehood that the pandemic is over.”
Though she agrees that COVID precautions are a step in the right direction, Beenblossom does not yet feel safe to participate in in-person events.
“Having Relays this year will be exciting because it will be the first big campus event that Drake has held since the beginning of the pandemic,” Beenblossom said. “I fully support the implementation of COVID precautions. However, I feel like some of the excitement will be lost with them in place. I know that some students have completely disregarded the COVID 19 rules that Drake has put in place. Because of this, I do not feel comfortable attending any events during Relays week.”