LIBERAL – Seward County Community College has completed COVID-19 testing of all its athletes during the second week of classes. With help from the Seward County Health Department, 102 athletes were tested and four athletes came back COVID-19 positive.
The choice to test, unique among Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference members, was part of athletic director Dan Artamenko’s comprehensive pandemic response plan.
“We tested, first and foremost, because we are trying to be safe. That is more important than any seeming disadvantage it might create, short term, because we’re all about the long-term picture for our athletes,” Artamenko said.
SCCC President Ken Trzaska pointed out that testing athletes “is also what is in the best interest for the conference. A campus that does no testing can claim to have zero cases, but that isn’t meaningful if it ultimately puts students in harm’s way.”
As the county health department provides test results directly to athletes, Artamenko’s coaching staff are working to implement effective contact tracing.
“The college has set up a robust system for reporting close contacts, providing quarantine options and meal delivery for those athletes who might need to isolate,” he said. “The first step is always, sit down with the coach and the test results and fill out the forms that kick the system into action.”
Based on the low positive numbers, Artamenko said the athletic department will now move to the second phase of his plan.
“We can add team workouts and expand operations a little bit,” he said. “It will allow us to make some progress and continue preparing for competition down the road.”
In these unusual circumstances, all sports have taken the long-term approach.
“In order to integrate our students safely into the community, we brought teams in early, quarantined them for a full two weeks, and that was before campus even opened for the fall semester,” he said. “For the athletes whose seasons got moved to spring, it feels like a long process, but we are telling them, ‘hey, this is your chance to get ahead with the academics, and it’s going to pay off.”
Trzaska praised the Saints Athletics’ approach.
“It’s not just about the college perspective or the athletic perspective — it’s the human perspective,” he said. “Our core values include integrity, trust, valuing others, student success. This is where we see those qualities at work.”