A South Florida girls cross country team missed out on a potential state title because of one of the strangest technical disqualifications to pop up in recent times: Two of the team's runners were disqualified because they unintentionally swapped the timing chips on their shoes.
As first reported by the Miami Herald and South Florida Sun Sentinel, two runners for Plantation (Fla.) American Heritage School were disqualified from the Florida High School Athletic Association Class 2A state cross country championship race because they accidentally wore one of the other runner's chips in one of their two shoes.
Like a number of road races, high school cross country meets often using individual computer chips which athletes attach to their shoes to transmit an official time as they cross the finish line. The technology also allows for race officials to monitor competitors as they're on the course and make sure that no one gets off track or tries to run using a shortcut; doing so would register as an incomplete race on the shoe chip's tracking system.
In the FHSAA state cross country meet, runners were required to have a chip attached to each of their shoes, meaning that each runner was competing with both a right shoe chip and a left shoe chip (why the race insisted that a chip be present on each shoe is unknown, but it may have been used as a safety measure in case one chip didn't transmit correctly).
So how did two American Heritage runners end up with mismatched chips? Here's how the Sun Sentinel helped explain exactly what happened:
[Heritage coach Maryellen Powers] explained that each runner is given two identifying chips, one for each foot. Two of Heritage's top six runners got their chips mixed up and were disqualified.
"The girls room together and one of them must have grabbed a chip belonging to the other one," Powers said.
It's unclear whether American Heritage would have won the title without the bizarre chip mishap or just finished as a close runner-up. The Herald reported that the points lost by the two disqualified runners would have pushed the Patriots into title-winning position, while the Sun Sentinel -- and Powers -- contend that the team still would have finished behind state champion Miami (Fla.) Carrollton High.
Regardless of where it would have finished up, American Heritage eventually landed in fifth place, an impressive showing but far from the one that the team felt it would be celebrating when early reports of it winning a state title trickled across.
"[The chip mix up] put another girl in where there wasn't," Powers told the Herald. "This is disappointing from a team standpoint, and the girls will learn from this."
As one might expect, the Patriots wouldn't have been in position to win a state title if they didn't get some impressive performances from some of the squad's best athletes.
The most notable of those highlights was turned in by Daesha Rogers (pictured above by DistancePreps.com's Barbara Moore and interviewed by DistancePreps.com's Josh Karadeem above), a seventh-grade phenom who finished in second place with a time of 18:08, despite being a full five years younger than the individual champion, Cocoa Beach (Fla.) High's Shelby Davidson. Her teammate Rachelle Alexander finished in fourth place.
Those results will put American Heritage in a strong position to contend in 2012, yet that could only go a small way toward salving a potential lost state title for a small school which is rapidly emerging as a true Florida track powerhouse.
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