By Jeremy Balan
Due to an oversight by the St. Ignatius athletic department, the school’s swim team was forced to forfeit two wins, and two of its best swimmers were deemed ineligible for the rest of the season and were not allowed to compete in the West Catholic Athletic League trials and finals this weekend at Serra High School in San Mateo.
One swimmer from the boys team and another from the girls team competed in the National Club Swimming Association Junior Nationals in Orlando, Fla. in late March, but that alone was not what caused the infraction.
According to St. Ignatius athletic director John Mulkerrins, because the swimmers had not yet competed for the Wildcats, if they would have only participated in individual events, St. Ignatius would have been in compliance of Article 6, Section 11 of the Central Coast Section bylaws, which states that “A student may not join a school Varsity [sic] team after the first contest of that team[,] if the student has competed on an outside team or outside competition in the same sport during the school/league season of that sport. . .”
But when the swimmers competed in relays at the NCSA Junior Nationals, they technically became a part of their club team, North Bay Aquatics. Once they gained that distinction, they became ineligible, according to the CCS bylaws, to compete for St. Ignatius. The two swimmers competed in the two following St. Ignatius meets, against Lowell and Sacred Heart Cathedral, and the CCS ruled both to be forfeits after St. Ignatius self-reported the infraction.
The fault of the infraction falls on the St. Ignatius athletic department and coaches, because the school’s athletic syllabus and coaches told the swimmers they were allowed to compete in the NCSA meet, including the relays, while retaining high school eligibility.
“It’s unfortunate for the two student athletes involved in this case,” Mulkerrins said in an interview on Friday. “They are not allowed to compete for their high school because of an oversight in rules. We do understand that it is our responsibility to know the rules of our section and understand that the penalty is written that way to preserve the high school experience, which we believe in.”
In a letter to families of swimming and diving team members dated April 23 and obtained by SanFranPreps.com, Mulkerrins apologized for the mistake and also stated that the athletic department intends to discuss adding rule clarifications to the CCS bylaws with the section, as well as working toward getting the NCSA Junior Nationals to be an exempted meet.
“I also want to make sure you know the student athletes did nothing wrong – they were operating under the assumption it was allowable . . . My apologies to our two student athletes, their families and the rest of the team members for this inconvenience during the season,” Mulkerrins wrote in the letter.