MHSAA drops ball by disqualifying runner for ‘unacceptable conduct’ at finish line

If you have ever walked down the hallways of a high school, you are well aware that you cannot make it 10 feet without hearing some form of profanity. Most of the time, that profanity is not directed at anyone at all and even when a teacher or administrator hears it, there is nothing more than a slap on the wrist and a reminder about there being a time and a place for those types of words.

Well, during the Division 2 boys race at the MHSAA Cross Country Championships at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, a dumb rule, which should never have been a rule in the first place, was enforced by the MHSAA cost one young man his second-place finish.

According to reports, Garrett Winter of Parchment High School ran the race of his life on Saturday and though he did not win, he beat his personal record by nearly 22 seconds to finish in second place.

Unfortunately, while crossing the finish line, Winter was so excited that he shouted some choice words that ended up getting him disqualified from the race.

Winter's actions violated Article 2 of Rule 4-6 in the National Federation of State High School Associations rulebook (Via MLive) governing high school track and cross country, which says, “Unacceptable conduct by a competitor includes, but is not limited to, willful failure to follow the directions of a meet official, using profanity that is not directed at someone or any action which could bring discredit to the individual of his or her school.”

Michigan High School Athletic Association assistant director Cody Inglis told reporters that there wasn’t a lot of room for interpretation in this case.

“The rule is there; that could have been written for that situation,” Inglis said. “I mean, it’s horrible and unfortunate, but the reality is that the official called the rule, and the process was followed to appeal the rule, and it’s a horrible thing. Nobody takes any pride or joy in this, but the fact is that the rule was enforced.”

“If there was a ‘may,’ then there’s a little bit of wiggle room because now we may have a way to find out if this was the case,” Inglis said. “The reality was that the committee tried to look at it from every angle, and the reality is that there was no wiggle room here. There was no way out of this, given the fact that nobody had any feeling that this wasn’t said.

“This wasn’t said under his breath; this was said. Nobody denied that; not one person. I was standing 50 yards behind the finish line, and I heard him. It couldn’t be denied. We couldn’t have said, ‘Oh, we didn’t hear that.’
“The seven meet officials there, the two timers in their media van and myself 50 yards behind the finish line all heard it. The reality was Garrett finishing in second place didn’t leave the normal congestion that occurs at a finish line of a cross country race to mask anything, and that was part of the challenge.
“The second one is not one person denied that this was an exclamation of joy; of true, overwhelming success that Garrett just crossed the finish line with, and that he felt that this was the greatest P.R. He ran his best race ever, and he was excited about it. Not one person questioned that. It was not directed toward anybody. There is a separate rule that deals with unsportsmanlike conduct, and this did not deal with unsportsmanlike conduct, but there is a rule about conduct, and that’s unfortunately where this came down.”
Parchment athletic director Brennan Davis had the following to say about the decision to disqualify Winter.
“This is completely out of character,” Davis said. “Since I’ve been at Parchment, Garrett has been one of the nicest, most appreciative, most generous kids; I would have never expected this to happen.
“It was pure elation; he shouldn’t have said it, and he agrees. He beat own record by 24 seconds – his own school record that he broke this year – and the sportsmanship that he shows, even after this happened, by helping runners through the finish line. He’s literally picking kids up at these races after he just runs. He stays at the finish line to help kids up, while other kids just keep going to see their family, coaches or whoever.”
“If I was in (the meet official’s) position in the biggest meet of the year, and the people that hire me are there – I mean, he was doing this job, and whether we agree with it or not, that’s neither here nor there,” Davis said. “I can tell you right now, if it were me, I don’t know how I could do that to a kid. My opinion does not matter, but my support does, so we’re going to be there for Garrett.
“Yeah, he cursed. OK, great. That kid would give the shirt off his back to anybody, and he’s going to be known by a lot of people because of this situation, which isn’t really fair.”
In my opinion, this young man had a minor lapse in judgment after accomplishing something he had never accomplished before and he should not have his second-place finish stripped from him because of that. In no way was he attempting to put any other competitors at a disadvantage, nor was he trying to gain an advantage for himself. In fact, he had completed the race already!
The MHSAA dropped the ball on this one and even though they won't change their mind, we all now know EXACTLY who finished in second place in the 2021 Division 2 boys race at the MHSAA Cross Country Championships and his name is Garrett Winter of Parchment High School.
Congrats, Garrett!
*All quotes via MLive – LINK