Story of the year: SWAC runners find controversy

06/24/2014 12:00 AM

06/23/2014 12:29 PM

This was far from a normal year for cross country and track and field fans in the area, as controversy kept the pace in both fall and spring.

First, it was a change in how the SWAC does cross country that caused uproar and a petition among parents.

In the spring, the rules about wheelchair athletes swung the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A boys track and field championship from Apex to Mount Tabor High in Winston-Salem, prompting new debate.

The SWAC required runners to participate in at least two of three specified conference meets in order to be considered for all-conference, a shift from previous and more widely accepted policy that the top 15 boys and 15 girls were all-conference.

The specified meets limited teams to just 15 runners each.

Parents got hundreds of online signatures in hopes of changing the new requirements.

But it didn’t help Green Hope’s Emily Jordan, who went on to finish in the top 15 but was not all-conference.

“All-conference has always been determined by one race,” said Apex coach Roy Cooper.

“The runners train to do their best at the end of the season.”

The NCHSAA rules for track and field athletes with impairments came under question after points from those events swung the title from Apex to Mount Tabor. Mount Tabor, which edged Apex 63-57, had eight points combined in various wheelchair events.

At least three different team scoring methods are used by various state associations in state high school championship track events that include athletes with impairments.

Washington state, for example, names a mixed champion and a traditional champion.

Louisiana counts the points scored by impaired athletes in team totals, but if those points determine the team championship, the team with impaired athletes is declared co-champion and the other team is the outright champ.

Texas, which added wheelchair events this year, does not count the points scored in the wheelchair events in team totals.

The NCHSAA has had competitions for wheelchair athletes for years.

But this was the first year points scored by the athletes with impairments helped determine the team championships.

Apex would have won the boys 4A track and field championship under other scoring options.

“In 40 years of coaching high school track, nothing has ever come close to bothering me this much,” said Lee Mauney, a retired teacher and coach who now helps with the Cary program.

“To have a group of athletes who are capable of winning a state championship and for them to perform like the Apex boys did and to have the title taken away really bothers me.”

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