Defending District 3 golf champ disappointed after season ends due to Camp Hill COVID-19 postponement pennlive.com · by Edward Sutelan | esutelan@pennlive.com

Paige Richter doesn’t even have a sniffle and she can swing her clubs just fine so she figured if she showed up Friday morning at Briarwood Golf Club she would get a chance to defend her District 3 title.

But the Camp Hill junior figured wrong, she said, because she arrived only to have officials at the championship tell her she could not compete after her school announced the night before it was postponing activities until Tuesday after one case of COVID was found in the district earlier in the week. Lions football coach Tim Bigelow told PennLive Thursday night the district was also looking at two more presumptive cases.

So, despite Richter not being ill, her golf season ended in the parking lot at Briarwood because PIAA rules dictate that athletes or teams who cannot compete in the postseason due to COVID-19 concerns forfeit their opportunity to advance.

And, her father, Chip Richter, who is the head golf professional at Carlisle Country Club, told PennLive, especially considering the sport, he believed that didn’t make much sense.

“If you said to me as a parent, ‘Your daughter is playing with someone with COVID,’” he said, “I would say, ‘I don’t care,’ because I know she’s going to be outdoors and 10-feet away at all times because that’s the way they’ve been trained through all the tournaments they’ve played in and there’s no way that puts her at any risk.

“But they didn’t want to hear that,” he continued. “They decided it was more convenient to put a blanket ‘No,’ on everything.”

The District 3 tournament is slated to wrap up Saturday.

Richter won the 2A title as a sophomore a year ago and went on to finish fifth at the state championships. The Richters said they learned earlier in the week that the district was planning to postpone all extra-curricular events through Tuesday, but on the encouragement of State Sen. Mike Regan, they drove to Briarwood Friday hoping they could convince officials to reconsider and allow Paige to play.

“I was trying to stay hopeful because I knew how excited I was for this tournament, and how much preparation had gone into it, but I lost a little bit of hope last night and then this morning, around 9:30, I kind of figured it was over,” Paige Richter said.

Camp Hill Superintendent Dr. Patricia Sanker said the district was advised by the Pennsylvania Department of Health to follow its health and safety guidelines and conduct contact tracing to figure out who had come within six feet of the infected students and have them quarantine for 14 days.

“COVID does not discriminate,” Sanker said. “It impacts athletes on the high school level as well as athletes on the college and professional levels. It’s not unusual for the NBA, MLB or NFL teams having games cancelled or postponed because of COVID outbreaks with their athletes. Camp Hill School District is no exception and has been impacted by COVID and we must abide by the regulations and guidelines.”

But, Chip said, golf is different, and he called it the “ultimate social distancing sport.”

The athletes are already naturally apart and have been coached to maintain distance due to COVID this season, he said. Also, for 2020, there are no bunker rakes and ball washers, all the holes have had barriers to keep the ball from going down into the hole, flagsticks are not touched, scores are kept on phones rather than on score sheets and coaches go around to make sure the proper guidelines are being followed, he added.

Richter said he tried to highlight all of those in his argument to Camp Hill administrators that his daughter be allowed to compete. And, Sanker said, the district did take those things into consideration.

“We talked about it, but the issue was we hadn’t had a chance to identify those students who had been in contact with positive COVID students,” Sanker said. “And how would her team players have felt because she was probably playing with three other golfers from other schools have felt if there was a possibility that she had been in contact with one of our COVID tested-positive students?

“It would have been a liability on our part to let her play in this tournament today.”

And, in the end, that has cost District 3′s top-returning 2A girls golfer to be left out of the postseason, and, she said, contemplating her future at Camp Hill.

“I was really disappointed in the Camp Hill School District today because all of the teachers are always rooting me on and cheering for me,” she said. “But then when it really counted, no one stuck up for me in the end.”