Whitman runners lose in court Defending champ barred from final

November 13, 1993|By Gary Davidson | Gary Davidson,Contributing Writer

ROCKVILLE -- Maryland will have a new girls Class 3A cross country champion. Three-time defending titlist Walt Whitman High's request for a court order allowing it to run in this afternoon's state meet at Hereford High was denied yesterday by a Montgomery County Circuit Court judge.

After listening to 2 hours, 50 minutes of testimony and lawyers' arguments, Judge S. Michael Pincus said Whitman coach Kerry Ward was "negligent" in the mix-up that caused the girls to miss the start of West Region championship race Nov. 4 at Watkins Mill High in Montgomery County.

Whitman said it was not informed of a schedule change that moved the 3A girls race approximately one hour earlier. Seeing the race begin, the seven Whitman runners entered the course approximately two minutes after the other teams. Despite the handicap, the Vikings finished seventh of the 10 teams, but only the fastest five schools advanced to today's state finals.

Pincus said even if Ward had not received the notice about the time change, he had the responsibility and ample opportunity to learn of the switch.

"There were 44 teams there [in the four regional races that day], and only one didn't make it to the starting line," Pincus said in his 10-minute opinion. "The coach had certain duties . . . and in the opinion of this court, he did not do them and, in fact, breached his responsibilities. He was negligent. He is responsible to get the team to the line in time."

Ward declined to comment.

The Bethesda school had lost two appeals within the state school system.

"[The judge] said what we've been saying all along," said Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association executive secretary Ned Sparks. "There are responsibilities, and the coach let the team down."

Andrea Spratt, one of two seniors among the seven Whitman runners, said her team would be at Hereford today supporting the Vikings boys' effort to capture a fourth consecutive state crown.

"I'm really sad, of course, but I can understand the judge's decision," said Spratt. "I think the judge made the right decision. The whole thing was a big mess.

"Everybody knows we're the best. There's no need to prove ourselves."

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