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State AA girls track controversy far from settled as hearing delayed, details emerge

State AA girls track controversy far from settled as hearing delayed, details emerge

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State Class AA and C Track 2021 04.jpg

Brooke Stayner of Missoula Sentinel clears the last hurdle en route to winning the State AA girls 100-meter hurdles last Saturday.

HELENA — A hearing in a court case that concerns Missoula Sentinel track and field athlete Brooke Stayner and the Montana High School Association has been delayed until July 13, according to Mark Beckman, the MHSA's executive director. 

Stayner and the Missoula Sentinel girls track team became embroiled in controversy at the Western AA divisional track meet, which then carried over to the Class AA state meet last weekend in Missoula. 

The Sentinel boys and girls teams took home the AA team championships, but the girls competition was clouded with questions.

Among them: Would the final results stand?

It's still unclear because the eligibility of Stayner at the state meet came into question after she entered too many events at the divisional meet.

Stayner was entered in five events at the meet as an individual: the 200, 400, 100 hurdles, 300 hurdles and long jump. She also later competed in the 400-meter relay and was on the track for the 1,600-meter relay when meet managers in Kalispell stopped the race to remove her from it.

It was discovered that she had also competed in the 400 relay, meaning the 1,600 relay would've been her seventh event. MHSA rules limit individuals to five events (relays included) at divisional meets.

However, athletes are allowed to compete in seven events at state (five individual, two relays) so Stayner could have competed in the relays in Missoula.

Here's where it gets complicated.

Stayner did not actually compete in the 300 hurdles or the 400-meter dash at the divisional meet because she was already pre-qualified in both events for state. Therefore, she didn't need to run in them at divisionals.

But, under MHSA rules, that still counts towards the event limit. This registration process is how athletes who are "pre-qualified" for state make that official. So even if they don't compete in the event at divisionals, by registering they are declaring their intention to compete in it at state using the pre-qualified time or measurement, which is based on standards set by the MHSA. 

Since some athletes are pre-qualified for state in more than five events, they have to choose which five to enter to not exceed the event limits. Here's the full explanation from the MHSA Track and Field Handbook

"An athlete using a qualifying standard to advance to state in a particular individual event must be entered in the district meet in Class B or C and divisional meet in all classes for that event but is not required to participate. That entry counts toward the MHSA event limitation which states that a contestant shall not be allowed to participate in more than five events (track and/or field), including relays, as well as toward the school’s limitation of five contestants per event."

Stayner wasn't registered by Sentinel coaches for either relay event on athletic.net, which is a website used for official results and will not allow athletes to be entered in surplus events, according to multiple sources.

The site forces an athlete to be removed from another event before the coach would have the option to add them again. 

As an example, assuming the site is functioning as intended, if Sentinel coaches attempted to add Stayner to either relay event, they could not have done so without removing her from an individual event first. And even though she did take part in the 400-meter relay, the official results do not list her as having participated in the race. 

Missoula Sentinel head coach Craig Mettler declined to comment Thursday night when reached by 406mtsports.com, citing the ongoing litigation. 

The MHSA was made aware of the violation on the final day of the Western AA divisional. The state's governing body for high school sports later determined that Stayner would be allowed to compete in five events at state: Both relays, as well as the long jump, 100-meter hurdles and the 200. She would not have been allowed to compete in the 300 hurdles or the 400 under the MHSA ruling.

However, Beckman told 406mtsports.com and the Missoulian this past Saturday that a temporary restraining order issued "by the court" last week in Missoula allowed Stayner the ability to compete in all seven events. 

Stayner went on to win the Class AA state championship in the 300 hurdles as well as the 100 hurdles. 

The next step in that process was a hearing on the temporary restraining order that allowed her to compete. It was supposed to take place Friday but will now be July 13. 

Missoulian Sports Editor Bill Speltz contributed to this report 

Chris is the sports editor and lead preps reporter for the Independent Record and 406mtsports.com. Follow him on Twitter @cmpetey406

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