Gym. coach’s complaints cost team state title


We’re not in the habit of discussing high school sports, but this grabbed our attention.  This looks like one of the worst calls I’ve heard about since the Ed Hochuli call gave the Broncos a win over the Chargers in ’08.  We know nothing about gymnastics, but talking to the refs does not seem like an offense that should cost you a win.  The Shawnee Mission Northwest athletic director Richard Grinage said it was like arguing balls and strikes, but umpires do not take runs off the board in baseball.

Tom Bergeron
Rivals High Senior Editor

Some times it’s better to just keep your mouth shut.Shawnee Mission (Kan.) Northwest High lost its state gymnastics title last weekend because its coach couldn’t do just that.

The Railer gymnastics team celebrates its team title.

Jackie Cipollini asked officials inappropriate questions about the scoring of the balance beam – a violation that resulted in a one-point penalty that dropped her school from first to third in the competition.

“Our coach made an inquiry and it ended up being an issue that’s not allowed to be inquired about,” Shawnee Mission Northwest athletic director Richard Grinage said. “It clearly states what you can appeal and her conversation with the judge was about issues you are not allowed to inquire about.”

Grinage would not say what Cipollini asked about, only saying, “It was a non-appealable, game-played judgment. It would be similar to a called ball or strike.”

While such a ruling rarely takes place in gymnastics, Grinage said it was like a technical foul called on a basketball coach costing a team a title.

Grinage said it’s a tough situation.

“It is the rule,” he said. “It is what it is. It’s bad for the coach, the girls, the school – everyone involved. No one wants to see a state championship settled in this way.”

The ruling marks the second time a school lost a title because of a rules infraction that had nothing to do with the outcome of the actual sporting event.

Earlier this fall, a Maryland cross-country team was denied a championship because one of its runners had improper stitching on an undergarment.

Cipollini was not available to comment but had harsh words for the decision when it was made.

“The Shawnee Mission Northwest Cougars gymnasts showed their strength, their pride and their confidence. They were the team to beat,” Cipollini told The Kansas City Star. “People in the stands stood and watched. We were the strongest team and had the highest score with 103.9 points, but, because of a ruling that has never been enforced in 30 years; we got a 102.9 and were third place.”

Becky Oakes, the assistant director at the National Federation for State High Associations, could not comment specifically on the Kansas situation, but did address why the rule is there.

“It’s for the flow of the sport itself,” she said. “To allow a coach to always question an official could really interrupt the flow of events for the athletes and the competition.”

Oakes understands there is a subjective nature to gymnastics judging. And for that reason, there are procedures in place to question the application of rules. Oakes, however, said procedure must be followed.

“There is a portion of the rules that addresses the process,” she said.

Grinage is sad about the outcome but happy about the way his team reacted this week when it was told the Kansas High School Activities Association decided the decision was not appealable and therefore stood.

“We’re proud of the way the girls performed and how the handled themselves throughout the process,” he said. “Their maturity level was so impressive to me. They weren’t happy about it, but they were willing to accept it.”

If you’d like to contact the “entity” in charge of the rules.

National Federation of State High School Associations
PO Box 690 • Indianapolis, IN 46206 • PHONE: 317.972.6900 • FAX: 317.822.5700

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