WAMEGO — Macksville coach Mike Hullman accepts responsibility for a mistake that cost the Mustangs a fifth-place medalist Saturday at the Class 1A state cross-country championship.
Fifth-place medalist Henry Penner was disqualified for wearing an incorrect number at Wamego Country Club. When “official” results were posted 30 minutes after the race, Penner’s teammates, coaches and family congratulated him for a fifth-place finish.
However, when meet officials double-checked results, they discovered Penner had worn an incorrect competitor number because of an inadvertent mistake. Penner had mistakenly worn a teammate’s number.
There was undisputed video evidence that Penner indeed ran the course fairly and did not gain an advantage by wearing an incorrect number.
But Fran Martin, KSHSAA director, ruled that Penner needed to be disqualified. Later, Gary Musselman, KSHSAA executive director, confirmed the ruling.
Mustangs Hugo Flores and Isaac Seibert were also disqualified for wearing incorrect numbers. Wyatt Neeland finished 90th (26:04.4) as Macksville’s only official finisher.
“Yes, it was hard to the boys to accept,” Hullman said. “We told them that the state might have disqualified them, but we know that they ran the race and where they placed. We have treated it like they were not disqualified at school and have not even talked any more about it.”
Hullman said the runners were philosophical about the decision.
They said, ‘You can take away our medal, but you cannot take away our pride,’ Hullman said. “I thought it was very fitting.”
This was the first year that state cross country used microchips on the shoes, so there was a number, hip numbers and shoe chips. In previous years, a bar code system and scanner was used, so the numbers had a small bar code patch on them with the names on the patch. This season, the numbers did not have the names on them.
“The boy’s team put on their numbers and chips and did not pay attention to the sheet with their names and assigned numbers,” Hullman said. “They did get the same numbers on all three — number, hip numbers, chips — but did not realize that they need to have their assigned number as well.”
A timing official was prepared to change the names on the official results, but was overruled by Martin and Musselman.
“He had video of them finishing so there was no doubt that they finished and where they finished,” Hullman said. “The state person would not listen to me or the timing person. She just said, ‘No, DQ’d.’ So the results was of us running were wiped out.”
Toby Conrad, Macksville athletic director, said KSHSAA officials felt like they were obligated to follow their own rules.
“They did what they felt like they needed to do,” Conrad said. “They went by the rules that state you must wear your proper number. But when they watched the videotape, it was obvious what the runners did. What I will remember is that the boys ran a great race. What Henry did was outstanding. No one can take that away.”