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Slippery Rule book interpretations leaves Newsome swimmer on dry land

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Fri. November 4, 2011 | Laura Keeley | Email

The NCAA isn’t the only governing body that has handed down confusing rulings lately.

At last week’s Class 3A, District 4 swim meet, Newsome freshman Lauren Harper swam in the 200 free preliminary race and finished in second, earning her a spot in the finals later that afternoon. However, Harper missed her start time for her next event, the 100 free.

Then things started to get confusing.

First, she was told she was disqualified from the entire meet, even the 200 free in which she had already earned a spot in the finals, said Newsome swim coach Chau Schroeder. Then head official Richard Sheridan cleared her to swim in the 200 free finals, citing USA swimming rules, which do not nullify previous performances. However, after Harper had already swam in the finals and right before the start of the girls’ 500 free finals, Schroeder was informed that the decision had been reversed and that Harper was once again disqualified from the entire meet.

“I was told one thing from the officials and then I was told another thing from the officials, and then that was retracted,” Schroeder said.

“It’s just heartbreaking. It’s absolutely disappointing for her.”

Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) director of athletics Cristina Broska said a mistake was made when the official used USA swimming rules instead of National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) rules. FHSAA rules can implement more strict guidelines than the NFHS rulebook, Broska said, and Newsome will be fined $50 for Harper’s no-show.

Newsome athletic director Paul Lindstrom said the school has not been notified by the FSHAA about the fine yet and that it would be the responsibility of the athlete to pay it.

Caught up in the tangled web of rule interpretations is a freshman swimmer who had state final aspirations.

“To me, you error on the side of the athlete, the swimmer,” Schroeder said. “These kids work so hard.”

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