East Palestine’s student athletics disrupted for health concerns

  • Several schools have pulled out of sports meets hosted in East Palestine
  • Rival schools remain concerned about health risks of the train derailment
  • The school's athletic director says meets are important for students

(NewsNation) — High school athletics are being disrupted in East Palestine, Ohio, after surrounding schools pulled out of competitions due to continuing health concerns following the Feb. 3 train derailment.

Residents worried about lingering environmental and health impacts, and symptoms such as headaches and rashes, after being told their air and water are safe. Yet that hasn’t stopped the spread of what East Palestine athletic director Dwayne Pavkovich describes as “fearmongering” that has disrupted the school’s crowded spring sports schedule.

Pavkovich joined “NewsNation Live” to share what his student athletes have been experiencing.

“Opportunity is what we’re here for, you know, our charge is to create as much normalcy and create opportunities for all our students as much as possible in dealing with this unique situation,” said Pavkovich.

Nearly a dozen schools have pulled out of the series of invitational track meets East Palestine hosts. While Pavkovich stressed he’s not criticizing any school that opts not to come, he also pointed out that the school has provided a link to the results of the Environmental Protection Agency’s daily air, water and soil tests in an effort to allay health concerns.

When asked by administrators at other schools what they can do to help, Pavkovich’s answer was simple: Come and play us. Give our athletes — particularly seniors who didn’t have a spring sports season as freshmen because of the COVID-19 pandemic — the same opportunities as everyone else.

“We want to create as much normalcy as possible,” Pavkovich said.

It’s telling of the importance of athletics to East Palestine’s identity that none of the school’s spring sports lost a single player in the aftermath of the derailment.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Trending on NewsNation