COVID Cases On Princeton HS Track Team Prompt Concern About Meet

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PRINCETON, NJ — Positive coronavirus tests among members of the Princeton High School indoor track team have prompted changes to how the team will approach future indoor meets this season, a team official said Wednesday.

Ben Samara, head coach of the boys and girls indoor track teams at Princeton High School, said "a very small number of positive tests" arose among team members who had competed at the South Jersey Track Coaches Association meet on Dec. 20, which was held at the John Bennett Indoor Athletic Complex, also known as "The Bubble," in Toms River.

The meet had 43 teams and roughly 600 athletes competing in the one-day event, which focused on sprints, high jump, pole vault and shot put competitions.

In a Dec. 24 email to team families alerting them to the positive cases, Samara expressed frustration about the meet, a report by Planet Princeton said.

"The meet involved far more teams and athletes than advertised," the report quoted Samara's email as saying. "While it is, of course, not a certainty that the positive cases resulted from this meet, we are taking this news very seriously."

Results from the meet published on NJMileSplit.com show Princeton had at least 29 athletes at the meet.

In an email to Patch Wednesday evening, Samara said the athletes who tested positive had attended the Dec. 20 meet.

"Out of an abundance of caution for athletes and families during the holiday season, we decided to cancel our sprint practices in case the situation became more serious and resulted in a large number of positive cases," he said. "We are very happy that did not turn out to be the case. We are glad we moved swiftly to protect our athletes and families and will do so again in the future if necessary, including putting additional protections in place for future meets."

Samara did not respond to an earlier question from Patch regarding the quoted email seeking clarification on how many teams and athletes he had understood would be competing at the meet.

An email to the South Jersey Track Coaches Association seeking comment was not answered Wednesday afternoon.

The Bubble is a large facility that routinely hosts large events, including the NJSIAA indoor track championships, with hundreds of athletes and spectators. It has an official capacity of 1,500, according to the Toms River Regional School District, which operates the facility and rents it out to various organizations.

Samara's email said the full team practices would resume Monday, Jan. 3.

Note: This article has been updated with additional comment from Ben Samara.

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This article originally appeared on the Princeton Patch