Karen Lin, Contributing Photographer

After six members of the men’s hockey team tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week, Yale Athletics regressed to Phase 0 of the Ivy League’s tiered practice approach and the University announced the temporary closure of several athletic facilities.

For non-athletes who have been competing for their own colleges this fall, the cluster’s emergence also brought about the temporary suspension of intramurals for “at least the coming week,” Yale’s COVID-19 Coordinator Stephanie Spangler wrote in a Tuesday night email to students.

With the end of the fall IM season approaching and playoffs getting underway for the first group of sports — HORSE, spikeball, CupCheck, cornhole and pickleball — the timing was poor for IM athletes that reached the most exciting parts of their now-disrupted seasons.

“I know that a lot of players on the Branford IM team[s] are pretty disappointed, especially since this season Branford was doing really well,” said Catherine Yang ’23, the IM secretary for Branford College. “We were pretty excited going into the playoffs because we were closer to the Tyng Cup than ever before.”

Playoffs for spikeball and CupCheck began on Monday and cornhole playoffs started Tuesday, before the abrupt pause. HORSE playoffs would have begun last Wednesday, according to the intramural schedule, while the elimination round for pickleball was set to commence on Tuesday, Oct. 20.

For most colleges, disappointment around the pause is understandable — this fall’s IM scene has flourished as students look for alternative ways to socialize and stay active while following public safety protocols. With the race for the Tyng Cup narrowing, players said they were excited to get into the playoffs and start racking up championships for their squads. In the current standings, Timothy Dwight leads the pack with 132 points, while Saybrook, Morse and Davenport trail right behind with 108, 102 and 102 points, respectively. 

Head Intramural Secretary Rachel Cohen ’21 explained that the group hopes to reschedule games at some point while prioritizing safety.

“This season it is our number one priority to keep participants safe,” Cohen wrote in an email to the News. “We have been working with Yale Health and Safety since this summer to make sure that IMs can happen within COVID regulations. We are acting with extreme caution, and have pressed pause on all sports for the time being. Though we were in the middle or about to start playoffs for fall sports, we hope to reschedule games so that each sport’s season can be completed.”

Cohen added that they have seen “very high” participation in IMs this year and drew attention to the competitive race for the Tyng.

IMs have taken on an unusually important role in the intra-college social scene this year. With most classes going completely virtual, students are using intramural sports as a new medium for meeting new people and showing their college pride. And while the games may be very different this year, they seem to be getting the job done, said Grayson Phillips ’24, one of the IM secretaries representing Pauli Murray College. 

“The Pauli Murray kids show up for everything — 0 forfeits thus far — and so obviously not having IMs is a bit demoralizing,” Phillips said. “I think we will really push to continue the high levels of interest in representing the college.”

As of now, IMs do not have an official return date. On Thursday evening, the University changed its COVID-19 status from green to yellow after recording an additional 12 positive cases on the men’s hockey team. In an email that went out to the campus community on Thursday, Spangler reminded students of the previously announced IM pause, but offered no update on the timetable for a return to competition. 

Despite the uncertainty, Severyn Kushmeliuk ’21, one of Murray’s other IM secretaries, showed some optimism. 

“The safety of our community supplants any other concerns,” Kushmeliuk said. “We have been lucky to have been able to play IMs up to this point in time, and I’m sure we will be back as soon as it is deemed safe.” 

Payne Whitney Gymnasium, the home of IM pickleball and HORSE competitions, is closed for cleaning until Oct. 19. 

Jordan Davidsen | jordan.davidsen@yale.edu