A state champion wrestler and runner from Lisbon High School who coveted another title in both sports this winter will not be allowed to compete in the Maine Principals’ Association indoor track championship due to a clerical oversight.

Tyler Clark has practiced with the Lewiston High School indoor track team while competing independently in Western Maine Conference weekend meets at the University of Southern Maine. While he would be a threat to win the one and two-mile Class B state finals on Feb. 19, he is forbidden to compete because his name was inadvertently left off Lewiston and Lisbon’s co-operative team paperwork.

Those names were due at the MPA office in Augusta prior to the first countable meet in December. When Clark’s name was submitted in January as a state qualifier, the MPA notified athletic directors Jason Fuller of Lewiston and Jeff Ramich of Lisbon of the previous omission and informed them Clark was ineligible.

Lisbon appealed the ruling to the MPA’s Interscholastic Management Committee on Jan. 31, the same day Jay High School challenged three girls’ basketball forfeits for the use of an admittedly ineligible player. Like the Tigers immediately before them, Clark and the Greyhounds were denied.

“We wanted to appeal, even though we pretty much knew what the ruling would be,” said Ramich. “(The MPA is) being consistent, which is really all you can ask for.”

Clark was one of four Lisbon students who expressed interest in running track this winter. Two girls signed up immediately as soon as Lisbon and Lewiston’s agreement became official. Later in November, after Clark heard the news and surveyed his prospective wrestling, track and academic schedule, he announced his intentions to join.

A third female student also signed up at that point, and Ramich reported the two late arrivals to Fuller. While the girl’s name appears on the official document submitted to the MPA, Clark’s does not.

“The rules are there to keep it fair for everyone, so they are kind of cut-and-dried,” said MPA assistant executive director Larry LaBrie of Auburn. “Our membership is the unbiased, fair jury of appeals. (The schools) are appealing to their peers, who then interpret the rules.”

LaBrie said the MPA fields several requests for such a hearing in any given academic year. The committee met with three schools in Jan. 31. In addition to Jay and Lisbon, Calais High School made the trip to the capital city to protest the football committee’s denial of its request to field a first-year team in Eastern Class C next season. That decision was upheld, as well.

Each of the appeals had a distinctly different flavor, but the two local schools made similarly sympathetic cases. Jay flagged itself in December after recognizing that a girl who saw limited time in three victories was enrolled as a part-time student due to family commitments.

While Jay’s case received more publicity, Clark has many ‘let him play’ backers on internet message boards within the tight-knit running community. Ramich said he was surprised this week to receive a call from Falmouth assistant principal and former Greely AD Jack Hardy, who told Ramich his school supported Clark being able to run.

LaBrie understands the plea for leniency but maintains that the MPA would be in the awkward position of explaining itself to every other school that did meet the requirements.

“It might be different if the rules were not readily available,” LaBrie said. “But they are out there, and all the schools are aware of them.”

If current participation holds or increases, Ramich said Lisbon will look into hiring an indoor track coach and starting its own “club team at the varsity level” next season.

And there is the chance of several happy post scripts. Clark won the 125-pound championship at the Western Class C wrestling meet last weekend and is gearing up for states Saturday in Augusta. When spring arrives, Clark will be a favorite to win the Class C 1,600 and 3,200-meter outdoor titles.

“If all goes well, hopefully he’ll get to wrestle for a state championship,” Ramich said. “He’s a great kid. That’s kind of what (the MPA) said: ‘As much as we like Tyler, we just can’t do it.’ “


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