The scenario is so ludicrous, it need only be put forth in a straight sentence: The nation's best prep long jumper, a two-time reigning state champion, will spend his junior season on his school's junior varsity team.
The player caught in such bizarre circumstances is Devin Field, a DeSoto (Texas) High athlete who was recently declared ineligible because of residency regulations by Texas' University Interscholastic League, which governs scholastic extracurricular activities in the Lone Star State. As covered by the Dallas Morning News and ESPN, among other sources, Field was declared ineligible for the spring season just days after winning the New Balance Nationals Indoor long jump title in New York, doing so with a lower back injury.
The issue behind Field's eligibility quandary is, at face value, a simple one. UIL determined that he couldn't compete for DeSoto because he is not currently living with a parent. Instead, Field is staying with Trent Gamble, an assistant coach for the Texas Faces track club who also happens to be a family friend. The move to stay with Gamble was made for academic reasons, with Field desperate to graduate next winter to focus more time on his budding track career. His previous school, Port Arthur (Texas) Memorial High, wouldn't have allowed him to complete the courses he needed to finish by December 2012, which will allow him to enroll early at Kansas State for the Wildcats' spring track season.
Yet there was a good reason why Field couldn't live with a parent; his mother and sister had to stay in Port Arthur to help take care of Field's grandmother, whose cancer had re-emerged in August, just before Field was to start his junior year at DeSoto after his first two years at Lancaster (Texas) High.
Despite those family reasons, UIL ruled that Field was in violation of the state's residency requirement. As ESPN reported, that left the superstar jumper little option but to finish his prep career competing in junior varsity meets for DeSoto since those events won't count toward the program's official standings. There is a small chance that the decision could be reversed if Field's mother returns to the Dallas area soon, but she would have to move within the DeSoto school district and an appeal would have to be launched rapidly to ensure it took effect during the Texas spring season. The track and field season in Texas concludes at the UIL state meet on May 12, and to compete there an athlete must reach qualifying standards by April 14, a deadline fewer than three weeks away.
Incredibly, Field seems to be at peace with that decision, even though it means he has likely completed his last official high school long jump.
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"Right now I'm just resting for a couple weeks and then I'm going into rehab," Field told MaxPreps. "I'm trying to prepare myself for the Arcadia [Calif.] meet [April 6-7], but the meet I really am focused on is the World Juniors."
Will he miss competing at the high school level? According to an interview with the Morning News, he will, though not necessarily the aspects one might assume.
"Everybody staying up late in the hotels and talking," he said. "Pillow fights. We were serious when we were competing, but it was fun most of the time."
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