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May 30, 2008

What's Right, Or What's In The Rules?

I always love it when students are able to figure out how to handle a situation better than the adults in charge -- and hope the adults in charge make the right choice here.

The state's governing body for high-school sports again finds itself stuck between its rules and what many consider common sense.

This time, the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association faces a protest from Nicole Cochran, a senior at Bellarmine Prep of Tacoma. Cochran finished more than three seconds faster than her competition in the girls 3,200-meter run at the Class 4A state track and field meet in Pasco, but she was disqualified after an official flagged her for running on the inside lane line.

One problem: a video shows she didn't do it.

"I'm still in a little bit of shock," Cochran said Thursday afternoon. "That's pretty much all everyone can talk about."

The video which shows that a Bellarmine Prep teammate, not Cochran, stepped on the inside lane line was shot by flotrack.com, a track Web site. Since the event's controversial finish late Friday night, the video has circulated throughout the state's track community, triggering many to call for the WIAA to reverse the disqualification and name Cochran the winner.

That, WIAA executive director Mike Colbrese said, isn't likely to happen.

He said the WIAA must follow the rules of the National Federation of State High School Associations, which prohibits the use of unauthorized video for reviews. In addition, the race official's ruling is considered a judgment call, which Colbrese said is non-reviewable.

Fortunately, there may be a couple of factors that let them overturn the erroneous judgment call.

Cochran and Ellis list several problems with the disqualification ruling, including that the disqualification form indicates the infraction occurred on Lap 7, even though the video shows the official raised his yellow flag on the final turn of Lap 6.

At the same turn on the seventh lap, Cochran moves outside to take the lead.

"Even without looking at the video, you have a disqualification form with the wrong information," Ellis said.

Also, Ellis said the WIAA should consider that one of the two race officials watching that turn refused to sign off on the disqualification.

Sounds to me like the disqualification itself ought to be disqualified here based upon the obvious inaccuracies in it.

But even if it isn't, this shows that our kids do, in fact, know that what is right ought to trump the rules in such a case -- and those involved handled the situation themselves at the meet.

Andrea Nelson, a sophomore from Shadle Park of Spokane, was named the official winner, but she walked off the podium and hung her gold medal over Cochran's neck.

"It kind of gave me chills," Cochran said. "It was really emotional."

Then the rest of the top eight finishers passed their medals down to the person who crossed the finish line ahead of them.

As hard as these kids have worked to get to this level of competition, I can only imagine how hard it was for those eight kids to take a step down the ladder voluntarily -- especially that poor young lady with the eight-place medal who went home empty-handed as a result. I wish they had included her name in the article, because I'd argue that her sacrifice was every bit as heroic as Andrea Nelson's in giving up the gold to the girl she knew had won the race.

Now, can the adults straighten out this mess?





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NAME: Greg
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