For the past several years, Walt Whitman High of Bethesda has had one of the state's dominant girls cross country programs. Nothing has changed this season. However, if the Vikings are to win a fourth straight state Class 3A championship, they first may need to plead their case in court.
Claiming they were not informed of a schedule change, Whitman's runners were not at the starting line for the beginning of the state 3A West Region finals Thursday at Watkins Mill High in Montgomery County. When they heard the starting gun, the Vikings' seven runners, who had been warming up, ran onto the course.
Starting more than two minutes behind the field in the three-mile race, said coach Kerry Ward, Whitman finished seventh among the 10 entrants. The top five teams advanced to Saturday's state championship meet at Hereford High.
Whitman's appeal to the state high school cross country committee was turned down Sunday. If the girls are not admitted into the state meet through administrative means, leaders of the team's booster club say they will seek a court order tomorrow directing their team to be placed in the field.
"We intend to pursue all the possible remedies to give them the opportunity to defend their title," said Allen Snyder, an attorney whose daughter Joanna, a 15-year-old junior, has been the Vikings' top runner this season.
Snyder said he is seeking the inclusion of the Whitman girls without the removal of any other school.
Ned Sparks, executive secretary of the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association, said Whitman's protest had no substance.
"The bottom line is the coach screwed up," said Sparks. "Now when all is said and done, it's somebody else's fault. Somebody [Ward] needs to be held accountable for their actions. . . . It's absolute baloney."