So I covered a high school league-championship swim meet last Friday, and the boys competition was very close. So close, in fact, that a team lost its league title because of one relay race, and lost that relay race because a kid was wearing the wrong swim shorts.
And yes, there are times when high school sports can be as maddening as college or the pros.
In case you’re interested in the details: This was the Sonoma County League swim championships at the Petaluma Swim Center. Analy and Sonoma Valley high schools were battling for the boys title, and Analy appeared to get a boost by winning the 200-yard freestyle relay; Sonoma finished second. Then came the disqualification. Analy was docked 40 points in the event, Sonoma Valley was bumped up from 34 to 40, and in the final meet tally the Sonoma boys wound up winning by a mere 14 points.
You do the math, as they say.
Analy coach Lehla Irwin was busy doing meet-director things, so it took her a while to figure out what had happened. One of her relay swimmers, a freshman, was wearing his club swimsuit rather than his Analy swimsuit. Both are navy blue. Only the logos set them apart. But one of the race officials happened to coach with the boy’s club team, and had no choice but to disqualify him.
As it turns out, the kid had never received his official team stretchy-bottom. Irwin had purchased Adidas suits through NorCal Swim Shop in Napa, but some of them never arrived. Adidas first blamed the labor dispute at the Port of Oakland, but NorCal Swim owner Craig Dillingham eventually figured out it had more to do with a change in U.S. distributors.
As Irwin said Monday, Adidas wasn’t the only blameworthy party here. She felt remiss in not catching on to the equipment irregularity, and was a little disappointed one of her seniors hadn’t noticed the nonstandard suit. Dillingham said he felt terrible for NorCal’s role in the fiasco. Of course, the DQ’d swimmer should have raised the alarm and perhaps borrowed a suit. But come on, the kid is 14 or 15. If my sophomore twins can’t find their hallowed phone chargers half the time, how can I fault a freshman for not knowing his league swim rules?
As someone who covers swimming only occasionally, my reaction is: Are you kidding me? You’re going to decide a league championship because a kid’s trunks came out of an Asian sweatshop with the wrong logo? This was not the LZR Racer that helped propel Michael Phelps to greatness.
I’ve run into the same issue at track meets. One time I wrote about how a local hurdler won a race while wearing a special onesey presented to him by a friend, and someone chastised me – or maybe chastised the hurdler, though me – saying he should have been disqualified.
It seems petty and wrongheaded and worthy of the NCAA. I didn’t expect swim people to agree. But Dillingham called the rule “archaic.”
“Being a retired swim coach, that’s terrible,” he said of the disqualification. “Let the kids swim. Perhaps they should have requested a letter that explained why it happened. I’d be surprised, with the technical suits out there these days, if other teams weren’t in violation.”
If so, none of those other teams were outed on Friday. So the Analy boys lost, Sonoma Valley finished first, and the bureaucrats of the world were the big winners.