MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Masks are no longer required for student-athletes competing in outdoor sports and practices, the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) announced Thursday.

According to MSHSL, the updated guidance comes from the Minnesota Department of Health.

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Masks will still need to be worn when participants are not “actively practicing or playing and cannot maintain social distancing.”

The announcement comes as state health officials are urging regular testing in schools during increased community spread of COVID-19. Student-athletes and those involved in youth sports are advised to test every week, with those not in sports recommended to test every two weeks.

“By testing and catching cases before they spread, we give schools and students the best chance for in-person learning, full sports seasons, and other activities that are so important,” Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said.

Sean Wright is a senior at Robbinsdale Armstrong High School in Plymouth. He’s thrilled to finally compete in a track and field match without a mask.

“It feels good, I’m happy about it,” said Wright. “Be able to breathe better, it’s better for us, it’s kind of hard to breathe with a mask on.”

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This is a welcome change for junior track athlete Eustace McGowan after playing with a mask during football last fall.

“It’s definitely harder to breathe in and I remember there were times when we were conditioning for football and you feel more light-headed running around,” said McGowan.

While athletes aren’t out playing on the field, they’re still required to wear their masks on the side lines, and coaches and spectators are still required to wear their masks. However, some Falcon student-athletes prefer to keep wearing their masks during games.

“Honestly, being in the field without the mask still seems weird, I sometimes would rather have it on,” said Isabella Jacobson, the senior captain of the Armstrong softball team. She, along with several other teammates, work their masks for this matchup Thursday, just as precaution.

“I know with the infielders, we’re going to be close with the other team and we don’t know where they’ve been in their school,” said Jacobson.

Even though coaches need to keep the masks on for now, this change is a relief for them too. They no longer need to worry about enforcement.

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“As a coach, you’re constantly worried about masks and now we can just focus on training,” said Derek Fisher, the head coach of the Armstrong track and field team.

Marielle Mohs