NEW CARLISLE — It was an emotional 48 hours for the New Prairie boys cross country team.
First, it was the disappointment of learning early Saturday afternoon that it missed out on a state berth in a tie-breaker to Lake Central. Then, late in the school day Monday, they found out that the Indiana High School Athletic Association had added them to the field, the result of an appeal made based on a scoring error found on the race video Sunday.
"I was extremely pleased, to say the least," Cougars coach John Arndt said. "When you analyze something like that, you always want to take into account, what am I missing here? Is there something I'm not seeing where I'm wrong? We went through every scenario, every angle. Sometimes, a bib will read slightly before a line."
The subject was first raised Saturday afternoon, when Ethan Walden, the Cougars' seventh runner, brought up in a group chat the results that showed NP's Quinn Beall finishing behind La Porte's Connor Havens.
"That got the ball rolling," Beall said. "I'd actually advised him to not even send it to coach because it was still a little sore subject, maybe let it sit a little bit. I'm glad he did. When the INCC rankings came out, La Porte was ahead of us, so going down the finishing chute, I had this little revelation like, (Havens) is the guy, he's going to do it. I wasn't even thinking about Lake Central. I was thinking La Porte. I kicked as hard as I could. I could've sworn I had him. It didn't even enter my mind. I thought I was placed ahead of him."
Arndt and assistant David Dailey went to get the race video from girls coach Julie Jeszenszky and pored over it to make sure they were seeing the same thing.
"It's about who deserves to be there and what's the right thing to do," Dailey said.
Even with that information in hand, there was a possibility that it was discovered too late.
"Basically, it was one of those things that was it correctible within the correct time period?" Arndt said. "Eventually it turned out that they saw that it was."
Arndt emailed New Prairie Athletic Director Ben Bachmann on Sunday, providing him with all the relevant information and images, and Bachmann, in turn, contacted IHSAA Assistant Commissioner Paul Neidig. On the road at the time, Neidig was of the impression that an appeal had to be made on the day of the race, based on a similar scenario that had happened two years ago at the regional level.
Arndt spoke to his brother Glenn, the coach at Connersville, on the subject, and was informed of the National Federation of High Schools rule that allows 48 hours for a scoring error to be corrected.
"Once I got in and reviewed the rule, I found out that federation rule, so they were well within that window," Neidig said. "Cross country and track are the only sports with a mechanism in the rule book to go back and make a change. New Prairie was definitely sixth place, but the team announcement had already been made of Lake Central being sixth, so we just made the decision to bring a seventh team from that semistate."
The Lavern Gibson Championship Course in Terre Haute has plenty of room to accommodate the additional team, so it's not a logistical issue.
"That's why we record it," Bachmann said, noting multiple I-Pads are used to video the finish. "Technology's great when it works, 99.99 percent of the time. It just proves that nothing's perfect. The coaches did their due diligence. Essentially, it was a correctible scoring error, we notified the IHSAA and they fixed it."
Word began to trickle around the high school Monday afternoon with Dailey first hearing from assistant football coach Bobby Whitenack. Quinn said he heard from a student aide in gym class, but took it with a grain of salt, before also hearing from strength and conditioning coach Jim Schwingendorf. Fellow senior Tom Wykoff picked up on it from his sister and classmate Dmitri Scofield, while individual qualifier Tim O'Laughlin was the last one to get the news during last hour of school.
"It was real nice finding out," he said. "Icing on the cake."
While Beall noted it would have been nice to get to go on the awards podium and receive ribbons, especially in their home gym, no one's complaining.
"I know you can have two perspectives on this race," Arndt said. "One, wow, all the pressure is off, let's just have fun, enjoy the experience and see what happens. The other perspective is, let's show any doubters why we're there, that we belong, we're there to compete with the best the state has to offer and see how high in the rankings we can show ourselves."