Take your mark, get set, (don’t) go

Swim team barred from participating in state championship meet


Senior Claudia Carroll swims butterfly in a regular-season meet. She did not compete in the state meet.

Thirteen Decatur swimmers were forced to sit out the state championship meet on Friday, Feb. 3. They were left to watch four teammates, including senior Jake Abrahamse, compete in what would have been the seniors’ last career meet.

Abrahamse set a personal record time of 4:51 in the 500-yard freestyle, also swimming in the 200-yard medley relay with teammates Max Walker, Talmadge Studstill and Ellington McDaniels.

“I have mixed feelings about this weekend,” Abrahamse said. “I was able to get a good time, but I was also upset that [the Georgia High School Association (GHSA)] didn’t allow others to swim or didn’t even hear the appeal that we had written.”

Decatur swimmers received an email on Saturday, Jan. 28 from coach Tania Kane explaining that many Decatur swimmers were not included on the GHSA meet sheet.

“I am taking full responsibility for missing the deadline,” Kane stated.

GHSA gives teams one week to submit a Proof of Performance (POP) that essentially validates swimmers’ qualifying times for the state meet. Kane’s email stated that she had been in the process of turning in the POP’s from the Dekalb County swim meet when she became ill with shingles and the flu. Kane missed the final deadline. Consequently, seniors, such as Eric Broner, didn’t swim in the final meet of the season.

“It’s kind of actually even more frustrating for me because this was the first year that I qualified and then I didn’t get to swim,” Broner said, “so it felt pretty terrible.”

The team arrived in the afternoon at the Georgia Tech Aquatic Center, where the state meet was being held. Because Kane had already ordered credentials for all swimmers with qualifying times, the swimmers were allowed onto the pool deck. The student-athletes immediately wrote an appeal and attempted to submit it to the meet officials, Broner said.

“We just said, ‘We’re asking for one last chance,’” Broner said. “When there are heats with open lanes, let us swim.  We’re not asking to collect points, we’re not trying to win this for our school, we’re just trying to swim.”

“We talked to the meet officials and said we would like to present an official protest to the referee,” Broner said, “and they were saying they were trying to find the head referee.”

State Meet Director Franke Marsden said letting the swimmers on the deck was probably a volunteer error and the swimmers should not have been allowed on the deck.

Meanwhile, Abrahamse went along with his teammates to warm up. After a 20 minute warm-up, Abrahamse returned to this spot “only to find that [his teammates] had been kicked off the pool deck.”

CSD Superintendent David Dude also wrote a letter to GHSA on Jan. 29 asking the GHSA executive committee to consider future rule changes on “appropriate punishment focused on the adult(s) rather than the kids.”

“If there is any opportunity for an exception for our student swimmers this year, and those of the other two teams who failed to meet the submission deadline, especially the seniors, I hope you will reconsider,” Dude stated.

After the team still hadn’t received word from GHSA two days later, Dude sent another letter that more directly expressed his frustration with GHSA.

“When I contacted you on Tuesday, January 31, I was truly hopeful that a rational outcome was imminent,” Dude stated. “The fact that our students continue to be punished for the actions of adults is incredibly frustrating, aggravating, and disappointing.”

Instead of working directly working for GHSA, Marsden works for Atlanta Swimming, whom GHSA contracts to run the state meet. While he doesn’t control GHSA policy, Marsden said he had conflicting feelings on this issue.

“To me, if I’m a coach that saw the rules and saw somebody who didn’t do what they were supposed to do, I’m a little frustrated at seeing that,” Marsden said. “That being said, if I were a parent, which I am, and I was involved in something like this, I would like to find a way to give [swimmers] an opportunity to participate and not have them be penalized for the mistake of an adult.”

Marsden also said he has mixed feelings over whether GHSA should change the policy to levying fines on schools that don’t meet the POP deadline.

“I do know that the GHSA is probably going to explore a possible solution along the lines of a pretty substantial fine and possible suspension of a coach if they run into a situation like this,” he said, “but I think that opens up a pretty wide door for abuse in some cases.”