Editor’s Note: At the State 4A Girls Track and Field Championships in May, Bellarmine senior Nicole Cochran was disqualified for an alleged lane violation in the 3200 meters, a race she had won easily. The Washington Interscholastic Athletic Association, 10 days later, admitted its error, reversed the disqualification and reinstated Cochran as the state champion. We told her we were going to run a short story about the reinstatement and asked her to email any comment she might have. She gave us an extended comment and said to just “cut and paste” whatever we wanted to use. Her response was so thoughtful, we decided to run it in full.
The state meet was quite eventful for me this year. My goal going into the meet was to win the 3200m, 1600m, and the 800m.
It started out well, and I ran the 3200 exactly as I had planned. I thought I had one race down, two to go. My joy lasted for about 10 minutes.
During this time my coach was called to the officials’ tent and was told that I was going to be DQ’d (disqualified). Obviously I was quite taken aback. I was being DQ’d for running three consecutive steps on the inside line. This was quite the shock. I have been running competitively since age 8 and have always followed this rule even when there is no curb on the track. I really knew in my heart that I had not run on the line, but my coach’s appeal failed, and I was DQ’d.
During the time all this was taking place, the other competitors were aware of what was happening. We talked a lot, and Andrea Nelson from Shadle Park High School in Spokane was quite upset. She was the second place finisher. After what seemed like hours, the top eight finishers were called up to the podium and given their medals. I clapped and cheered them on, even though I was feeling pretty bad at being disqualified. After the presentation, Andrea stepped off the podium, walked over to me and put the 1st- place medal around my neck. I was pretty flabbergasted. The other girls proceeded to swap their medals up one person. I could absolutely not believe what was happening. I went to the hotel that night feeling awful about my DQ, but absolutely wonderful that the other competitors felt I deserved the 1st-place medal, even though I had been DQ’d.
I finished 4th in the 1600m and 8th in the 800m the following day. After the awards, I gave my 8th place medal to Lyndy Davis from Monroe High School. She was the 8th-place finisher in the 3200m the night before and gave up her medal. I just did not want her to go home from the state meet her senior year without a medal.
Our team ended up winning the state meet and we were very happy. End of story…
Obviously the story did not end there. Coach Matt Ellis and the Bellarmine athletic director, Ed Ploof, continued to push the issue on the WIAA. After several conversations with Mike Colbrese, executive director of the WIAA, and 10 days after the incident, I was reinstated as the 3200m champion.
I was so excited. I didn’t believe that it had actually happened given the fact that most calls like this stood their ground against appeals and protests. This would not have been possible without the persistence of my coach and Mr. Ploof at Bellarmine. Hopefully this incident leads to corrections in the future so others do not have to endure what I did.
Even though I am now the state champion in the 3200m, the thing I will remember most from that weekend is the sportsmanship displayed by those girls who didn’t need anyone to tell them the right thing to do. That truly gives me hope for high school athletics and its future in the hands of the athletes.