The St. Anthony athletic community is rallying behind senior track stars Asjah Atkinson and London Lee after their Arcadia Invitational performances were disqualified due to a rules violation. The DQ falls particularly harshly on Atkinson, who pulled off a rare double-individual win at the prestigious invitational, claiming the gold in the 100 hurdles and the long jump. Both athletes competed at a league meet for St. Anthony earlier in the day, and CIF-SS rules state that athletes can only compete in one event per day–by rule, the second event’s results are DQed, which resulted in the Arcadia decision.
“I’m perfectly fine with being disqualified,” tweeted Atkinson. “At the end of the day I helped bring my team to a league championship and still managed to win twice at Arcadia on practically dead legs. You can never take away the experience.”
She later tweeted, “Being disqualified is saddening, but I did an amazing job regardless and have the medals to prove it!”
Arcadia meet director Rich Gonzalez tweeted that “We were not aware she had competed elsewhere earlier.”
Gonzales tweeted that St. Paul had informed St. Anthony of the infraction, then St. Anthony self-reported to the CIF Southern Section, whose rules state that the marks from the second meet are “stricken from the records.” Gonzalez said the marks have been stricken and the “medals are being returned, as required by rule…rules in place must be observed to avoid new penalties.”
St. Anthony track coach Ericka Brooks was upset by the way things played out, and said that the CIF-SS rule changes this year had unfairly punished her sport. CIF-SS rules have been amended for the current school year due to COVID-19 to allow athletes to participate in multiple sports at the same time, even on the same day–at Wilson, for example, quarterback Xavier McLaurin has played baseball and football on the same day, and Nico Colchico has performed the admirable feat of running a half-mile on the track then suiting up to play basketball that night.
“Pissed is an understatement,” said Brooks when asked how she was feeling. “The outdated rule they have during COVID is so confusing–they pick and choose which rules to keep. We’re so disrespected in our sport where we don’t even get a state championship. You take away State and 90% of our invitationals and here we are.”
Brooks pointed out that because State was canceled, most in the California track community have considered this year’s Arcadia to be the unofficial state championship, meaning that Atkinson and Lee would have had to choose between league or state-level competition under the rule.
“They’re trying to win league for their school and to compete with athletes on their level at Arcadia,” she said.
Adding to the frustration for the Saints was that there’s no real competition at the league level for Atkinson and Lee, two of the state’s best (Atkinson is a Cal signee). Atkinson ran unopposed in the 100 hurdles at the league meet, for example, just to score the points for her team, and she sat on the field and did homework during the long jump competition, passing her attempts until her final one, when she jumped the best mark of the day.
The bulk of Brooks’ frustration came from what she saw as a low-handed motivation on the part of St. Paul’s coaching staff in reporting the infraction.
“Their coach told us good luck at Arcadia before he left, he knew we were going to go,” she said. “Then they call our AD and contest the league meet–trying to get us DQed from the league meet, not from Arcadia. That backfired so we still won league but our kids DQed from Arcadia, and it comes down like this on our kids.”
Brooks said it’s a shame that anyone would prioritize rules or league scores over kids’ experiences during this strange COVID-19 year. She pointed out that Atkinson and Lee will not be able to attend St. Anthony’s graduation because the CIF-SS Division 4 Finals are scheduled for the same day.
“You have kids who want to compete on a national level and couldn’t because of COVID, and you’re making those calls,” she said.
St. Anthony athletic director Chris Morrison confirmed that the league meet was contested but declined to name who did so. He agreed with his coach that there should be higher priorities in a year where so many rules have been rewritten.
“They changed all the other rules for the other sports so kids could play travel ball or multiple sports at the same time, these were two very brief races, one of which she ran with no competition in,” he said. “Our league meets are normally on Wednesdays and they’re all being held on Saturday this year because our league doesn’t have the facilities for the COVID protocols. All this does is hurt an athlete during COVID. This is all supposed to be about the kids. For the person who reported it, it’s wrong in every way. For somebody to report that when we’ve all been going through this for the last year is wrong.”
Morrison also said that for all his frustration, he took responsibility as the school’s AD for the error of not knowing the rule.
“That’s my fault as our AD for not knowing that rule,” he said. “The CIF-SS made it okay in every other sport that people can do multiple sports on one day and I didn’t know that it wasn’t the same for track. I feel bad–these kids worked very hard for this.”