- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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There it was in black and white—if you hold hands with another runner, kiss your four years of training goodby.
Kays and McGovern argued their case. They said they didn't do it to block another runner: nobody was even close. It was simply a gesture of sportsmanship. Winning just wasn't all that important.
The boys' coaches, figuring it was no use, did not file a protest. "A rule's a rule." said Kays's coach. Jon Abraham. "We live in a nation of rules." said McGovern's coach Mark Cotton. Meet officials summarily dismissed the boys' pleas.
Instead of going to the finals, the boys were going home. The third-and fourth-place finishers were going in their place. The incident raised some interesting questions.
For instance, when, if ever, should there be an exception to a rule? In this case, there was a precedent for an exception. In 1978, at the Nike- Oregon Track Club marathon in Eugene, Tony Sandoval and Jeff Wells crossed the finish line holding hands. Blocking another runner is against the rules, but here the intentional tie that harmed no one was allowed.
The rule as intended is a good one, put in the books to keep teammates from locking arms to prevent an opponent from passing them. But clearly, that was not the intention of McGovern and Kays.
A second, and possibly more important, question is, what lesson did the incident teach these two young men?
"I learned that you might as well be competitive," said Kays.
"Well," said McGovern. "I learned not to do it again. I would like to have had the decision changed, but I didn't know how to go about it."
The biggest crime here wasn't the fact that the boys were ruled out of the state finals. It was that they probably learned nothing about how to light a perceived injustice. It's fine to be a competitive tiger on the track, but don't try to fight the bureaucratic beast.