OCT. 17 SPORTS COLUMN — PETE TEMPLE, SPORTS EDITOR
As many of you know, the Monticello High School boys cross country team has been ranked first in the nation, among schools with enrollments of fewer than 500, all season.
For a short time, it looked like the Panthers might get the chance to prove they were number one in the country.
Panther coach Dan Sauser was contacted by David Taylor of the National High School Coaches Association to see if the Panthers would be interested in arranging a meet involving two other nationally-ranked squads, from Luling, Texas and Perham, Minn.
“They are willing to travel to Monticello following your state meet to face your team on home soil to legitimately determine a national champion,” Taylor wrote. “Is this something you are open to?”
Absolutely, Sauser initially said.
There was one problem; Iowa High School Athletic Association rules wouldn’t permit it. David Anderson, the assistant executive director of the IHSAA, told Sauser such a meet would be a violation of the athletic association’s policies.
To be clear, there are some who believe the Monticello Community School District vetoed this idea, when it fact it was the IHSAA.
“There is considerable opportunity here for the Iowa Code and IHSAA rules to be violated,” Anderson wrote to me in a reply e-mail. “As I explained to coach Sauser…if the school knowingly violates Department of Education rules and IHSAA policies, there would be significant consequences for the Monticello program.”
The high school cross country season officially ends with the state meet on Oct. 27, and any organized meet, practice or other event involving the coaches, team or school would subject Monticello to sanctions, including being ineligible for state qualifying and state competition in future years.
“That does not mean six boys from Monticello could not run in the meet as individuals or a team,” Anderson wrote. “However, school equipment cannot be used unless leased to these individuals. Coaching would have to come from someone other than school-employed boys high school cross country coaches.”
Sauser said he is disappointed, but understands the association’s position.
“It was an honor to be offered the opportunity,” Sauser said. “It would have been a neat thing, and we definitely would have been open to it.”