FORT DODGE — Rachel Perry’s conflicting emotions included joy and compassion.
“I’m really excited because a state (relay) championship is a great accomplishment,” said Perry, a recent graduate of Linn-Mar High School. “But more than anything, I feel bad for the other girls from Pleasant Valley.”
The Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union board of directors stripped Pleasant Valley of its Class 4A girls track championship Friday after determining middle-distance star Kaley Ciluffo violated an eligibility rule by competing in three meets against collegians in December.
A release by the Union Friday morning did not mention Ciluffo by name, but said, “The ineligible athlete was a part of 38 team points at the (state meet).
“First-place points in the 4A distance medley and 4x400 meter relays, the 800-meter run, along with second-place points in the 1,500 meters will be vacated. Place winners and team points will be adjusted accordingly.”
Pleasant Valley outscored Urbandale, 82.5-73.5, for the title at Drake Stadium in Des Moines in May. Adjusting team scores accordingly, Urbandale is the champion with 77.5 points, followed by Des Moines Roosevelt (71).
West Des Moines Dowling (59), Cedar Rapids Jefferson (56) and Linn-Mar (55) round out the unofficial top five. Pleasant Valley tumbles to seventh place.
Linn-Mar had run second to Pleasant Valley in the 1,600 relay, which Ciluffo opened for the Spartans. Hanna Saville, Maddie Saville, Perry and Amber Decker are awarded the title retroactively.
“It’s a bittersweet situation,” Decker said. “I feel awful for the other three girls in their relay. They didn’t do anything wrong. It’s too bad they have to be punished for something they had no part in.”
Stephanie Jenks already was a double-winner, capturing the 3,000- and 1,500-minute races. She ran second to Ciluffo in the 800, and is now the champion.
“I feel terrible for Pleasant Valley,” Jenks said via e-mail Friday afternoon. “They have such a great program and they work extremely hard.
“As for the being named the 800-meter state champion, I would have rather earned it than been given it by default.”
Jenks, ironically, is ineligible to compete in cross country. She knowingly competed against collegiate athletes last fall instead of running for Linn-Mar, but her track eligibility is intact.
Ciluffo will be a senior at Pleasant Valley in the fall. She will be ineligible to run high-school track next spring.
The specific reference in the Iowa Code is as follows:
“A student is not eligible to participate in an interscholastic sport if the student has, in that same sport, participated in a contest with or against, or trained with, a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA), National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), or other collegiate governing organization’s sanctioned team.
“A student may not participate with or against high school graduates if the graduates represent a collegiate institution or if the event is sanctioned or sponsored by a collegiate institution. Nothing in this subrule shall preclude a student from participating in a one-time tryout with or against members of a college team with permission from the member school’s administration and the respective collegiate institution’s athletic administration.
In addition to the state meet, Pleasant Valley will also be stripped of its state qualifying meet points in the events in which Ciluffo participated. There will be no additional sanctions issued against Pleasant Valley High School or its coaches.
IGHSAU director Mike Dick said, in a statement:
“The Board of Directors ruling in this situation is consistent with the scholarship rules in the Iowa Administrative Code. This is an unfortunate situation for all parties involved. However, the mission of our organization and its board of directors is to be fair and equitable to all of the girls that participate in IGHSAU activities. We are confident we did that today.”
Pleasant Valley superintendent Jim Spelhaug wasn’t so sure.
“We’re profoundly disappointed,” Spelhaug said. “We don’t agree with it. They basically made the decision while admitting that PV coaches and administrators were no way responsible for or had any knowledge of the actions of this family and this student.
“By making this decision, the board has set a standard coaches, administrators and districts really have to know the unknowable. We think that is a very unfair standard.”
Dick said that regional and state results will be revised and posted on the IGHSAU website next week.
Ciluffo set an all-time Iowa best in the 800 meters, and Pleasant Valley bested the record in the distance medley relay. Both of those marks will be erased.
Ciluffo was the Drake Relays champion in the 800 and in the 1,600 relay. Any actions on those titles are up to Drake officials to determine. If they choose to take away her 800 title, it will go to Jenks.
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