California State Meet Championship - The Bizarre and Sad Story of the Vista High School Boys Varsity Team - Doug Speck

vistateamstartb1.jpg (98451 bytes)    neurothstartb1.jpg (100777 bytes)    coachbrooksvista2b1.jpg (95766 bytes)


(L-R) Vista Team at the Starting Line Ready to go- Where did Justin Neuroth's team go? (the last minute yank) - Coach Brooks understandably a bit upset 

Vista High Boys Cross-Country and the 1999 State Cross-Country Meet

Doug Speck -

The Vista High School Boys Cross-Country team and their involvement in the 1999 California State High School Cross- Country meet reached heights of mistreatment never before seen by this writer in some thirty years of involvement with high school athletics. The inability of State CIF officialdom to make a decision and stick with it played with the emotional strings of the fine Vista team, coach, and followers in a way that made one repulsed to be involved with the activity.

The Palomar League, that Vista is a part of, had the strongest group of Boys Varsity teams in State History, with that grouping having an amazing three ties for top placements up through the League Finals. In Cross-Country the placement of teams in such a situation goes on to the finishing number of the sixth runner, with Vista amazingly on the short end of the ties each time before the Section meet. Guess what happened at the Section Finals? There was a tie again, with Mt. Carmel winning, with Poway second along with Vista on points, but Poway had the higher placing sixth runner to move ahead in the standings. A few years previous the State Track and Cross-Country Advisory Committee, that this author is a part of, made the recommendation that any ties from a Section Finals competition be sorted out there for team trophies, but that all the teams who tie for the final spot on points through five runners go to state and be welcomed in Fresno for the State Meet, since the Starting line at Woodward Park always has openings and meet management has stated more teams are no problem. While not a part of the State Meet Bulletin, State Meet Entry Coordinator Dennis DeWitt of Madera HS stated that he has paperwork from then Assistant State Commissioner Margaret Davis that says to accept the entries of those who tie for the final spot from a Section on points, with two such teams competing in the 1998 State Meet. One coach at the State Meet this year stated that this information to include ties in the State meet was included in his Section's Meet bulletin a year ago.

After the San Diego Section Finals tie things became interesting. It seems that originally Vista was told that they would not be able to run as a team in the State meet. Questions about the passage by the State governing bodies of the Advisory Committee's suggestion resulted in this decision. Deep investigation was obviously not carried out, since DeWitt's information never came to light early on (was the Central Section State Meet managment included in any early discussions?). Okay, a decision was made. Vista Coach Peter Brooks and Justin Neuroth, who qualified as an individual, came to Fresno to compete. While in Fresno on Friday, Brooks was told that his team would compete, the squad was given bib numbers, and parents drove five hours with uniforms for the athletes, amazingly all there already to support Neuroth in his race. On Saturday morning, Brooks was told that his team could not take part, with only Neuroth allowed on the starting line. With the Division I the final contest of the day, at 1:25 p.m. there was time for more strange happenings, with the Vista squad told now a second time that they could take their place at the starting line. With approximately a minute to go before the race, with final race instructions having been given, the squad was told they would not be able to race. In a tribute to the mental and physical tenacity of Justin Neuroth, he was still able to place seventh individually in the Division I Finals.

Utterly amazing to be around! To be treated in such a shabby manner after the monumental sacrifices Coach Brooks, team members, and families had made over the last few years, all with the best of intentions, was incomprehensible. The shallow investigating that went into decisions and the on and off again nature of communication was a disgrace. Some sincere apologies (and expense reimbursement) should be called for. A few years ago the Championship Track meet rained out, with many questioning the decision-making process by the State CIF at that time. With the train of thought followed in the Cross-Country situation this year it does not look like the process has improved. For Vista it did not rain, the entire roof fell in with memories that will leave a bitter taste forever when the term "CIF" and its governing abilities comes up for these young people and their supporters.

We invite an answer to the above description---


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