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Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016: Fayetteville-Manlius girls dominate at NXN

   Leading off today: Death and taxes? Sorry, but those remain iffy propositions compared to Fayetteville-Manlius being money in the bank at the Nike Cross Nationals in Portland, Ore.

   The Hornets once again dominated at Glendoveer Golf Course to win their 10th NXN girls team championship. They strolled past second-place Davis (Calif.) by a 41-181 margin for the team's best performance since winning with just 27 points in 2010.

   Claire Walters was the top F-M finisher in 18:05.7, good for 20th place overall in the deep field and second among team scorers. Sophia Ryan (18:19.3) and Phoebe White (18:30.) were third and seventh, respectively, in team scoring.

   Brie Oakley of Colorado easily won the individual title in 17:10.1 despite taking a fall late in the race.

   "We just followed pretty much the same strategy we always use," F-M coach Bill Aris said. "Get out solid and strong, and just stay strong the whole way. It was a beautiful course. But it rained a lot here and it was very soft. We just ran a strength race."

   Shenendehowa's girls placed 14th.

   The state's individual entries could have formed a pretty spectacular team by themselves, with all five placing in the top 27 -- led by Kelsey Chmiel (Saratoga, fifth, 17:41.1), Jessica Lawson (Corning, eighth, 17:50.4) and Katherine Lee (Shoreham-Wading River, 10th, 17:57.1).

   A year ago, Chmiel ran fourth overall in 17:15.4 under better course conditions.

   Bozeman (Mon.) won the boys team title by a 105-141 margin over American Fork (Utah). Liverpool placed ninth and Fayetteville-Manlius 19th.

   Individually, Casey Clinger became the first boy to repeat as the NXN champion. The American Fork senior turned up the heat at the start of the third mile and finished in 15:28.4.

   Liverpool seniors Steve Schulz (15:49.4) and NYSPHSAA Class A champion Ty Brownlow (15:55.9) were 12th and 14th overall, respectively on a course softened up by rain throughout the week and then chewed up by the day's early races.

   "Your wheels kept turning, but you weren't going anywhere," Brownlow said.

   F-M, running a man down as sophomore Max Perry remained hospitalized following surgery for a staph infection, saw it's shot at a top-10 finish lost when No. 4 runner Jack Boltman, already suffering from a foot injury, lost a shoe early when he was spiked.

   "I was just pleased the boys did not finish dead last," Aris said.

   Curtis takes top PSAL prize: Junior quarterback Quincy Barnes converted a 4th-and-20 to keep the drive alive and then delivered a 44-yard TD pass to Amad Anderson for the go-ahead touchdown with 2:25 remaining to lift Curtis to a 24-21 victory over Erasmus Hall Friday at Yankee Stadium for its sixth PSAL City Division championship.

   The Warriors had turned the ball over three times in the second half and five times overall before pulling together the decisive drive.

   "The offensive line did a great job helping me out and letting me buy time. I have to buy them dinner tonight," said Barnes, who threw for three TDs. "They gave me as much time as I needed and I saw Amad one-on-one and what else would you want to choose than Amad Anderson one-on-one with anybody?"

    • Lehman Campus secured the second-tier Bowl Division championship with a 30-0 win over Harry S. Truman.

    • In the Cup Division title game, Eagle Academy III downed Frederick Douglass 12-6 in overtime to capture the program's second straight Cup title.

   In overtime, FBA was stopped at the goal line on fourth down as Omar Morrisey stuffed QB Omari Hill's run. Three plays later, Eagle Academy quarterback Gary Newman snuck in for the game-winning touchdown from a yard out.

   "We worked hard for this all year," Newman said. "In camp, we had four days where we were waking up 4 o'clock in the morning and grinding."

   Parsing words: Schenectady reporter Michael Kelly was ahead of the field six weeks ago when he wrote about a proposal from the New York State Education Department. The question now is whether school district superintendents and other key players will chime in to derail the restoration of wording in a state regulation that was problematic before and almost certainly will muck things up going forward.

   On the surface, Commissioner of Education MaryEllen Elia's proposal looks benign. It would allow more leniency for students seeking an extra year of athletic eligibility, all but cracking the glass face on the so-called "four-year eligibility clock" that commences with the start of ninth grade.

   Follow along for a moment:

   Currently, the NYSED Regulations have this to say about an athlete's request for an additional season of eligibility:

   "If sufficient evidence is presented by the chief school officer to the section to show that the pupil's failure to enter competition during one or more seasons of a sport was caused by illness or accident beyond the control of the student, such pupil's eligibility shall be extended accordingly in that sport. In order to be deemed sufficient, the evidence must include documentation showing that as a direct result of the illness or accident beyond the control of the student, the pupil will be required to attend school for one or more additional semesters in order to graduate."

   The new NYSED proposal adds the phrase "other circumstances beyond the student's control" to the list of reasons that a students under the age of 19 at the start of the school year would be allowed an additional season in their sport.

   In fact, that provision already existed until 2014 but for a long time it was more or less understood by all parties that "other circumstances beyond the student's control" still had to relate at least marginally to illness or injury.


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  •    Over the years, however, lawyers began chipping away at that interpretation. And once Westhill baseball player J.C. Pena won in State Supreme Court in 2013 by arguing that economic hardship necessitated a move to the Dominican Republic in his freshman year, that was game, set and match. The NYSPHSAA successfully moved to strike the "other circumstances beyond the student's control" clause from its rulebook.

       So, what could go wrong with restoring the phrase? New York State Public High School Athletic Association Executive Director Robert Zayas said recently he's concerned that the NYSED will be putting local administrators in a difficult position. I can think of at least two troublesome provisions that remain in place for any decision on extended eligibility:

       (1) The school physician has to sign off on an opinion that playing will not present a health or safety issue for the athlete. But who's looking out for the interests of eighth- and ninth-graders who would now be playing against an increasing number of 19-year-olds in collision sports such as football. lacrosse and ice hockey?

       Elia's proposal seeks consideration of the safety of others, but should School A be making judgments like that with respect to athletes from School B?

       (2) The superintendent has to stipulate that the student's participation "will not adversely affect the opportunity of the other students competing in the sport to successfully participate in such competition." Good luck maneuvering that rather subjective minefield.

       Elia's proposal says the pupil can't be allowed to hold an unfair advantage in the competition. Again, should School A be making the call on the potential effect on School B?

       In the first case, the superintendent stands a chance of being hauled into court the first time a 14-year-old gets sent to the hospital courtesy of a big hit applied by a 19-year-old that he/she specifically approved to play.

       In the second case, a superintendent or sectional administrator is going to have a hard time justifying an opinion that a fifth-year senior does not create an adverse effect at the same time he/she is ruling boys cannot play girls volleyball, a sport in which males competed rather frequently until a recent string of unsuccessful appeals.

       Add a few other unintended consequences to the list of possibilities if Elia gets her way:

       (1) Will school boards start rewriting district policies so that junior-high students who previously would have been allowed to play JV or varsity sports under the Athletic Placement Process might no longer be eligible, thus eliminating their exposure to much older opponents -- maybe even in non-contact competition such as bowling and swimming in order to maintain consistency?

       (2) Who's going to handle the mountain of school and sectional paperwork associated with the requests for extended eligibility? An appeal process based upon circumstances arising three years earlier may require tracking down coaches, athletic directors and doctors who have long since left. Even if they're still around, memories get fuzzy and seemingly indisputable facts get challenged (as is the case in one appeal I've been following recently).

       (3) How will insurance carriers react to an up tick in fifth-year seniors?

       (4) Is Elia's office prepared for the additional paperwork? To be sure, some cases are going to make their way to State Supreme Court, which is a problem in itself. But before that happens, the court will insist that the plaintiff has exhausted all possible appeals within the sports organization and then the NYSED.

       As it is, Elia and her predecessors have averaged roughly one written decision every other day on various appeals (very few relating to sports) reaching the Commissioner of Education. Sure, she has a battalion of lawyers at her disposal, but Elia will still have to sign off on these decisions one at a time and the facts will rarely be identical in any two cases. If you want to gain an appreciation of how mind-numbingly complicated these decisions can be, check out this 2,500-word gem from last week closing the books on an appeal so old (and in some respects inconsequential) that the complaintant had long since graduated from high school.

       There's a basketball player at Staten Island Academy who's already missing time pending an answer from Elia on his appeal. On the other hand, an Orchard Park football player got his request fast-tracked this fall. Will response time be a function of how many state senators and assemblymen an athlete's lawyer can get to advocate?

       The public comment period on what Elia is proposing ends Dec. 27, and the Board of Regents could adopt the change in February. Here's hoping more than a few superintendents and other administrators express their concerns in the coming weeks.

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