Mark Blackmon, a seventh grade runner, competed in Saturday's Footlocker South meet in Charlotte, but is not listed in official results.
|Mark Blackmon nears the finish during the junior boys race Saturday in Charlotte. (Photo credit: John Olson/scrunners.com site administrator)|
Blackmon, as a middle school student-athlete, is only permitted to run in the middle school 3,000-meter races at the meet, according to Footlocker Meet Director and Nationals Meet Coordinator Max Mayo. However, an official at the meet noticed Blackmon on the starting line for the start of the senior 5,000-meter boys race.
Officials then informed him he is required to run in the youth race (13-14). After being removed from this race, officials then noticed Blackmon on the starting line for the junior race, also 5,000-meters. "When the gun went off, he went anyway," said Mayo.
Blackmon crossed the line in the top five before the disqualification.
"We have a sportsmanship code of ethics," said Mayo. "When a runner enters a race they are not eligible to run, we are going to find them and disqualify them. But they can also jeopardize their future opportunities to run (the race)."
Mayo, mentioning how the Footlocker meets receive national attention, said "When anyone comes to this meet they are going to be scrutinized by the whole nation when you do something that is inappropriate."
"It is just unfortunate and it is a shame because we had the biggest and fastest races every," said Mayo. "A 20-year old record was broken in the girls race by two girls. When things like this happen it is just unfortunate. Not only that, it creates a problem with scoring and a lot of different things. Hopefully everyone in the sport will learn from this."
"It is unfortunate that parents will put their own desires ahead of the rules that are clearly printed on the entry form and what is fair for other athletes competing in the race," said Larry McAfee, meet official in charge of results at Footlocker South. "Mark was one of a number of athletes who had to be disqualified for running in the wrong race. What runners, parents, and coaches who endorse doing this don’t realize is how it affects others in the meet. Meet officials have to verify the results before they can be posted and announced. When a runner shows up in a race that doesn’t appear to belong, we have to contact registration and verify whether this is a typo error in our database or a runner in the wrong race. For example, in the boy’s junior race, we identified eight runners in our initial results that did not appear to belong in the junior race (sophomores, seniors, and a seventh grader). After contacting registration and checking each athlete’s entry form, we had to disqualify all eight runners for running in the wrong race. This takes time! It delays getting results to the awards area and posting the results for the athlete’s who ran the right race and want to see their time and finish place. In Mark’s case and the eighth grade girl who ran in the seeded girls race, this is doubly bad, because their parent/coach was told before the race that they were not eligible to run in these races.
In fact in Mark’s father’s (Mitch Blackmon) case, he was told this for two separate races. Parents/coaches send a very sad message to their athletes when they choose to disobey the rules if it suits their purpose. I realize that both these athletes compete on their high school teams; however, the Foot Locker entry form clearly states that the high school races are for athletes who are in grades 9-12 and not yet 19-years old."
Blackmon, running in a Quick 1 singlet, is a member of the Fort Mill cross country team and led the team to the state title over Northwestern with a third place time of 15:49 in the Class AAAA competition on Nov. 4 in Columbia.
"I didn't even know he (Mark) was in the race until near the 3,000 mark," said Dominic Desantis. "I thought that he should have never been in that race."
Desantis, a junior at Hilton Head finished 13th in the race with a time of 16:27.
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