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Let Khalil Forehand run the 100m in his final high school track meet...

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Bishop Kelly senior Khalil Forehand enters this week’s 4A state track and field meet with two individual state titles under his belt. But one of Idaho's fastest sprinters won’t compete in the boys 100-meter championship because of a rules interpretation by the state seeding committee.

Forehand false-started in Saturday’s 4A 100-meter district finals, disqualifying him from the race and costing him a shot at an automatic berth at state. Exemptions to Idaho High School Activities Association rules allow athletes who post qualifying times in preliminary events to qualify for state. In 2010, for example, Centennial's Sofia Huerta was allowed to run the 100 hurdles at state under the same circumstances. This time, though, the state seeding committee denied Forehand and his appeal this week.

“They are elevating form over substance,” said Jeffrey McKinnie, a lawyer representing Forehand's family. “What we’re witnessing here is there is nothing procedurally different with Sofia Huerta and Khalil except maybe the people on the committee in 2010 were more compassionate than the people on the committee now.”

Ty Jones, the executive director of the IHSAA, said no one brought up that precedent to the seeding committee when it ruled on Forehand. The committee, made up of approximately 20 track officials from around the state, doesn’t have the same members now as it did eight years ago, Jones said.
“Different people and different groups can interpret rules differently,” Jones said. “That’s the safest way to say it because that other one happened eight years ago. I bet if you asked someone on the committee eight years ago, they wouldn’t remember it. I don’t remember exactly what we discussed last year for our hardships.”

Forehand has the third-fastest 100-meter time in the state in any classification this season at 10.77 seconds. That time is the second-fastest in the 4A classification, 0.01 seconds behind Twin Falls’ Muamer Mujic, the defending state champ. Forehand’s preliminary time at the district meet of 11.02 seconds beat the qualifying time of 11.10 seconds. It also would have won him the district title and made him the second-seeded runner in the 100 at the state meet.

Forehand, who has signed with the University of Idaho football team and plans to run for the Vandals' track team, will still compete in the 200 and 4x100- and 4x200-relay races at the 4A state meet Friday and Saturday at Dona Larsen Park.

The controversy surrounding Forehand stems from a confusing section of Idaho’s track rulebook, which differs from the state tournament manual. The rulebook and state tournament manual both state that athletes who meet the state-qualifying marks in a district preliminary race qualify for state as long as they meet the “Honest Effort Rule” and compete in the district final.

The rulebook does not explain the “Honest Effort Rule,” but the state tournament manual does under a separate section detailing its hardship criteria. It says an athlete will only receive a hardship exemption to the state meet if he or she was injured, had a family emergency or was interfered with. For example, if an opponent trips a runner during a race.

It goes on to say, “Those athletes not having a certified injury/illness will also not advance to the state meet if they scratch from a final. Special qualifying marks in the preliminaries will only be used as we have in the past.”

It does not define if “scratch” includes a false start or only means an athlete chose not to compete, leaving those situations open to interpretation. In 2010, the seeding committee interpreted it to allow Huerta to advance to state despite false-starting in the district final. This season, the committee did not.

Bishop Kelly coach Jeff Carpenter said the IHSAA continues to treat Forehand as someone applying for a hardship exemption. But according to his reading of the rulebook, which has qualifying times listed in a separate section, Forehand isn’t applying for a hardship exemption.

The IHSAA's Jones said Idaho only uses qualifying times for hardship cases and that no one can qualify for state based on a time alone.

“They admitted to me it needs to be reworded,” Carpenter said. “But that being said, if it needs to be reworded, we need to stick to the way it’s worded now."

Idaho Statesman article by Michael Lycklama

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