El Diamante boys allowed to swim at Valley despite CIF misgivings
By Patrick Dillon
visalia –Last week the season for the El Diamante Miners’ boys swim team looked to be prematurely over after having been banned from the Division II CIF Valley Championships. Meaning for swimmers such as Preston Niayesh their hopes of defending their valley titles from a year ago were gone. Not to mention their futures in the sport possibly put in jeopardy.
“It was extremely devastating and it wasn’t something I could control,” Niayesh said.
After an appeal to lift the ban was struck down the middle of last week Niayesh and some of his teammates took matters into their own hands. The day before the meet in Bakersfield they traveled up to Kingsburg on a mission to try and persuade the influential Vikings head coach who sits on the CIF board of league representatives. While the reception by the staff and swimmers of Kingsburg was positive no guarantee of a change was made.
“It was a cool feeling to know even swimmers we would be competing against wanted us in the meet,” Niayesh said.
With no guarantee they’d be competing they went on to Bakersfield to support the El Diamantes girl’s squad. It was only by force of habit that they took their suites. However, when they arrived they were thankful they did. Once all eight members of the boys team arrived the meet directors decided to go against the California Interscholastic Federation’s (CIF) rulings and let them compete as individuals. As long as no team points would be given to El Diamante.
“I didn’t believe what they told me honestly,” swimmer Chase Canterbury said. “I thought there was a zero percent chance.”
Niayesh and Canterbury made the most of the opportunity. Niayesh defended his 100 Yard Breaststroke title clocking a time of 21.54 seconds. Canterbury won the 50 Yard Freestyle with a time of 21.54 seconds. Both will now head to the state competition which was a dream before.
“I really thought it was done,” said El Diamante Athletic Director Adam Thompkins. “I am just really surprised and happy for our boys. They worked really hard and deserve this.”
During the week Crichlow had come up with the idea of having the swimmers act as alternates. If there was a scratch in a certain event where they were competing they would be entered. However, by the time he got around to suggest the solution the CIF meet directors had already made up their minds to let the boys compete.
“Before I could get in touch with them down in Bakersfield they had decided they could get them in which did not have my approval to begin with,” said CIF Central Section Commissioner Jim Crichlow with disapproval.
The entire ordeal began as a result of human error. All entries to the valley meets are due noon the Sunday before competition. The CIF did not receive El Diamante’s until 10:38 p.m. that night. At that point Crichlow declared the entire team ineligible.
“I wanted the kids to swim as best they could, but we have rules we’ve got to follow,” Crichlow said.
Had the entries only be a half-hour to an hour late they would have fallen within a grace period and entered for competition. While it was the same day the CIF stood firm on the ban.
In a plea to the CIF El Diamante requested they look within their bylaws for a solution which would have allowed the boys to swim. Located within those ordinances El Diamante found their right to appeal the ban. Last Wednesday the appeal was struck down by a 9-3 vote by the board.
“We asked that CIF follow their bylaws and they did just that,” Thompkins said. “We ended up not getting a fortunate vote for us.”
El Diamante head coach Elliot Cavale had suggested the individual entries. Only to have it rejected by the CIF as well.
Although, the deadline has been in place for some time the penalty for missing it is only seven years old. It was in reaction to a number of teams abusing the noon deadline. Some believe it was to gain a strategic advantage by seeing what events certain swimmers were entered in. Then they would submit their entrees. The year prior to the penalty being implemented four schools sent in late results.
Since the penalty was introduced this is the first team to have suffered a ban, and already it is casting new light on it. Still in the early stages the section is considering some changes. One proposed change could fall in line with the Sac-Joaquin Section. It would include a monetary penalty on late entries submitted before the Tuesday prior to the event. After that a ban would be enforced.
While there are possible changes to the penalty coming the El Diamante staff is being proactive about taking measures this situation does not happen again. Beginning next year all results of the West Yosemite League Championships will be submitted the night the meet is completed. That way if there is any mishap they have time to fix it.