Racing to victory is probably one of the most exhilarating feats one man can achieve. Crouching in the blocks, pistol firing, and every muscle in your body exploding in unisonance propelling you down the track. Competing against a field of equally athletic challengers is a true test of mental strength and physical prowess. Crossing the line, victorious, you look up, raise one finger oh so slightly, and thank your higher power for helping you endure and come out triumphant. Minutes later, when you should be celebrating, you’re informed you and your team have been disqualified for that same gesture.
This was the case for one high school track team. Upon winning the race that would send them to the state championship, runner, Derrick Hayes, who is the anchor on the Columbus High Mighty Cardinals 4×100 track team, pointed to the sky, presumably giving thanks to God, as explained by his father, KC Hayes. Officials from the University Interscholastic League of Texas (UIL) citing a vague rule that prohibits participants from excessive or demonstrative celebrations while still in the field of play. From all eyewitness accounts, Hayes was not trying to taunt his competitors or bring unnecessary attention to himself or his team. Nonetheless, his team was disqualified and despite requests from the school, parents, and Governor Rick Perry to investigate the matter, the consensus is the team was harshly penalized for an apparent “act of faith.”
The incident is still under investigation and the UIL is denying that Hayes was disqualified for an “act of faith.” Is this going too far and has the separation of state and church become so convoluted that seemingly minor demonstrations of religion are being scrutinized to the extreme? Did this team, player, who apparently worked hard and saw their hard work pay off, deserve to be disqualified? Why was the alleged perpetrator not disqualified instead of dooming the entire team? Did the UIL act with extreme prejudice and over-zealousness? Many questions and certainly differing opinions, but one thing is for sure, there are no winners in this race.