Editorial: Preventive Officiating Needed At State Championships

Editor Note: This article is not to be considered a personal attack on the state meet managment or officials, but hopefully brings discussion from both sides on the issue in achieving my hopes of more preventive officiating at the state meet and no uniform violating calls being made to eradicate the results of our athletes.



You may notice that there were no video interviews at this weekend's VHSL State Championships. I opted not to do any interviews because I was in a pretty foul mood after the first race of the day when one of the athletes I coach at Clover Hill High School was disqualified for what I believe is a ridiculous enforcement of a petty infraction that is being used far from its original intent in creation and instead taking away the accomplishments of our young athletes.

The state meet should be the stage of the athletes and the athletes only. Not for officials to take the stage. Often in our country's major sporting events, the common theme for the officiating crew is to let them play the game and not have the officials impact the outcome of the game. This is not the case in high school cross country and track. During the regular season, we have this mindset and then suddenly come the state championship series, we have these new rules enforced. There has not been consistency over the years with our uniform rules at the state meets either. I remember wearing a headband with an adidas logo when I competed at the state meet. Also this year's state meet, it was decided that the headbands are a much better advertising billboard than the chests with underarmor body logos and hands with gloves having logos as many other athletes on Saturday at Great Meadowhad underarmor and gloves showing logos on them.

Coaches were all told of the uniform rules at the coaches meeting beforehand and I was in attendance. I'll man up and take the blame for not checking my athlete prior to the start of the race for any logos on her other than her uniform. However, I got distracted because I more focused on having her mentally prepared going over our race strategy and giving a pep talk as well as make sure she was properly clothed in our first cold race of the season since she has renaulds syndrome. So performance and healthy came first in my mind and somehow it caused me to overlook to see if she was going to running billboard for Nike.

Obviously I have a large audience through my website to make those aware of this issue and possibly speak up for those who have been affected in the past by such rulings.  It is important that we have rules in this sport to maintain order. Some rules make sense, while some you have to question the mental rationality of the creators and enforcers. Does having a Nike logo on your ear warmers on a blistering cold day require the punishment of a disqualification of a young athlete who has earned her way to compete at a state championships? Does it justify her place and time being stricken out of the results after giving her all for 5000 meters with the rest of the competitors this past Saturday?

Also has the concept of preventive officiating ever been talked about? We should have had more officials checking for logos at the starting line than in the finish line chute. Interests of the kids would be served in having officials doing this task at the starting line instead of serving the interest of individual power trips of having officials doing this task at the finish line. In my opinion, a starting line clerk should never let a uniform infraction to get to the starting line. 

Why not punish the coach who forgot to make sure that the athlete did not turn her ear warmer inside out after being told at the coaches meeting? Or punish the school who could not afford to provide her with school issued warmups, gloves, and ear warmers.  But do not punish the girl by taking her name out of the results as if she does not even exist and did not even compete at the state championship as a freshmen. She deserves more respect than that.  She should be proud of what she has done this season and on Saturday, but I was not a proud member of Virginia high school cross country. On Saturday, I almost wanted to walk out of the meet and out of the sport for good. I thought it was about the kids and not about us.

I should tell her to go play other sports, so she can get her performances recorded. At least Barry Bonds can keep his home run record and Shawne Merriman can still be elected to the Pro Bowl.