A week after it disqualified more than two dozen Virginia Beach-area high school cross-country runners from the Virginia AAA Beach District cross-country meet for wearing Lance Armstrong "LiveStrong" wrist bracelets, the district overturned its decision and certified the runners' results.
Two days prior to the Oct. 6 event, the Virginia High School League issued as the 12th of 15 notes in its weekly update to schools: "The Lance Armstrong 'LiveStrong' yellow wristband is popular among athletes. The [National Federation of State High School Associations] Rules Review Committee has agreed that this wristband, like any other adornment, shall be treated as jewelry and removed during participation."
The Beach District said Tuesday that runners and coaches were not given enough advance notice about the rules change, prompting it to nullify the disqualifications.
"It's gotten so absurd," Princess Anne cross-country coach Marianne Lawrence said. "They were just trying to make a point. They've never enforced this at any other meet. You could run with a medical or religious bracelet. "
Lawrence's fight, however, wasn't over. Her top runner, sophomore Katy Winsper, had won the meet with a personal-best time. During the race, a band holding her hair in a ponytail fell out, so she put it around her wrist for the rest of the run. When she crossed the finish line, officials saw the band and disqualified her.
"It just appalled me," Lawrence said.
Lawrence said she wrote e-mails in protest to Bruce Biehl, Beach District chairman and principal of Kellam High. Biehl did not return a phone message seeking comment.
" 'Does that mean you're telling us that hair-bands are dangerous to other runners?' " Lawrence said she wrote to Biehl. "It's funny that they're allowed to run with running watches but not with a band like this."
Ten minutes after threatening to take her case to the Virginia High School League, Lawrence said she received an e-mail wiping away Winsper's disqualification.
-- Alan Goldenbach