While many area fall sports teams were rejoicing over state titles or strong performances Nov. 9, the Francis Scott Key boys cross country team was crestfallen.
The Eagles appeared to have won the state Class 1A title at Western Maryland College that day but had to settlefor second when two of their top three runners were disqualified.
The two Key runners, along with six others, were cited for havingcut a corner on the final turn of the race. In an ideal world, the decision would have been cut and dried, but for several reasons, the disqualifications provided more questions than answers.
Nearly everyone involved agreed at least some portions of the course were poorlymarked and crowd control at the turn in question was not as good as it could have been. Most also agreed the infractions were by just inches and accidental, with the runners gaining no real advantage.
Several meet officials noted that most runners handled the turn properly.
Meet officials also noted that the Key runners did not take thetraditional pre-race course walk, which might have helped clear up any confusion about the turn. Eagles coach Jim Bullock countered that a course walk is not required and that if the course had been well-marked, the runners would have had no problems.
Bullock also argued that crowd control in the early race was so bad that officials upgraded it throughout the day to prevent similar problems in other races.
The Key coach appealed to the course referee who had made the decision -- county resident Stan Ziolkowski -- and to the games committee, but to no avail.
Bullock also sent a letter to Ned Sparks, executive secretary of the Maryland Public Secondary School Athletic Association, but that group has no process for appeal after an event.
The meet was run at Western Maryland College this year after a long run at Hereford High in Baltimore County. The old site was not available because of renovations to the school.
Key did have one bright note that day -- Jim Clarius upset Mike Mamo of Milford Mill, BaltimoreCounty, for the state 1A individual title.