It was the kind of error in calculations for which a student might get partial credit in calculus, but which would wreck the Hubble telescope. For a period of roughly an hour on Saturday, it cost Bishop Feehan (Mass.) High girls track team a repeat title in the Massachusetts Indoor Track Division 3 State Relays.
Then, when Bishop Feehan coach Paul Powell and others started to look into how they lost the title they were sure they'd retain, they noticed something odd: Race officials had been dishing out points to all top-eight finishers in each event. According to the Boston Globe, Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association regulations call for only the top six finishers to receive points, which meant that all the total scores for the entire meet were erroneous.
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The officials sat down and muddled through a little more than an hour of hand calculations, eventually learning that the team which had been crowned as the new Division 3 state champion -- Hopkinton -- was actually the runner-up after all.
"We won last year so we were disappointed thinking we came up short," Bishop Feehan senior Viviana Hanley told the Globe. "But to think that we did good, it's awesome -- it feels a lot better. We all worked really hard."
However, just as quickly as the scoring change handed Bishop Feehan a title, it also took one away. The Shamrocks had been crowned as the boys Division 3 state champion under the initial results, but the revised scoring led to adjustments that moved Bishop Feehan down to 41 total points, exactly one point behind Randolph (Mass.) High.
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"We thought that we lost, and last year we came in second and we were mad at ourselves," Randolph senior Godfrey Mbengam told the Globe. "But we won, so it's a big accomplishment -- we're so happy."
As one might expect, the results made for an incredibly topsy-turvy day for both the Bishop Feehan teams, not to mention the state meet officials, who had to hand out two trophies to giddy teenagers, just to take them back an hour later and re-deliver them.
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