MIAA Ruling Prevents PA XC From Racing in Invite

“I really don’t know why we can’t run.” The confusion senior runner JJ Feigenbaum ’04 felt echoed the sentiments of the rest of the cross-country team after both Andover squads, boys and girls, were prohibited from competing in the Manchester Invitational by a Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association ruling. The decision came as a surprise, as Andover has competed annually in the Manchester race for as long as any of the runners can remember. As Coach Jon Stableford ’63 had joked about the situation, in years past the team had flown in under the radar of the MIAA and been allowed to race at Manchester. This year was different, however. The initial attention drawn to the situation was not to Andover’s race eligibility, but towards Exeter’s. The Big Red also had competed at Manchester for many years, dueling with the Blue in the Elite Race. The first ruling, this made by the organizers of the Manchester Invitational, barred Exeter from letting a fifth year runner, Harry Norton ’04, compete in the race. Following the banning of Norton from the race, the issue of Andover’s own Josh Wolfe ’04 came up. Wolfe, like Norton, was in his fifth High School year. It is unclear at this time the chain of events that led to the Wolfe ruling, and who brought his eligibility up. Eventually, Andover acquiesced to Manchester’s decision on not letting Wolfe run and the team expected to still run at Manchester, with a slightly adjusted top seven. Initially, it appeared that the MIAA’s ruling that Wolfe could not compete in the race would not affect the other runners’ participation. However, the issue of fifth year athletes gained attention from the National Federation, causing the MIAA to make a quick ruling on the subject of Andover’s involvement in general. The MIAA decided that Andover would have to become a member to enter the race. The MIAA was concerned that if the Andover Cross Country team violated MIAA rules while racing out of state and against public high school teams, there would not be an organization to discipline Andover. This would reflect poorly on the MIAA, which has to answer to the National Federation. As New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletics Association executive director James W. Desmarais explained, “In order for a non-member school to compete, they have to sign an agreement to abide by the NHIAA rules.” The NHIAA was willing to hand these waivers out to Andover, who would have been competing in their state. Unfortunately for the boys and girls in blue, it was not the NHIAA’s decision; Andover needed to get the waiver from the MIAA. The MIAA did not offer a waiver, taking a hard stance on rule 2.2 of the MIAA Handbook, which states, “Teams not registered with the Association are not eligible for tournament participation.” The MIAA was not available for comment on the issue or the story in general. Since all MIAA schools would lose their membership if they competed with non-member NEPSTA schools, such as Andover, Manchester officials were faced with the fact that letting the private schools compete would be disastrous for the large meet, filled mainly with public high schools. For meet coordinator Doug Glance, the problem was “plain and simple,” and he needed to avert the loss of the entire meet. Glance continued on to share his own opinion on the matter, saying, “Personally, I don’t think that any harm was being done [by letting non-member schools run].” Joining the MIAA was not a sensible option for Andover, since Andover would have to abide by MIAA rules in all season competition. MIAA membership would prevent Andover from competing with other NEPSAC schools, disqualify post-graduates and give the MIAA control over Andover’s game and practice schedules. Coach Stableford commented on the future of Andover XC and Manchester, saying, “What I’m hoping is that the MIAA will recognize NEPSAC as our governing body.” If Andover-MIAA problems persist Andover will have trouble competing in any National Federation sanctioned event. Meet director Glance, said, “We’ve enjoyed Andover’s presence in the past and hope to do so in the future.”