Grizzlies say they made 'the right decision'

Bob Julian Jr. was explaining the reasoning behind his team's decision Thursday when he wandered into a gray area, revealing for the briefest of moments a man conflicted.

"It was just the more honorable thing to do," said the Ashland High cross country coach. "I've heard people say, 'You guys made the right decision.' Yeah, well, it was the right-er decision, because there's a cost on the other side, too. You could say, 'Are we rewarding somebody who broke the rules?'"

It's a fair question, but ultimately the Grizzly boys took the high road Saturday when they decided during a post-race vote to forfeit their berth to the state meet in order to allow Mountain View to head north for Saturday's meet. Mountain View finished third behind Ashland in the final boys team standings, but only after the Cougars' would-be team leader, Chris McBride, was disqualified for obstructing Ashland's Sam Jackson at the finish line. The violation cost Mountain View 13 points — in a tight race for one two team berths to state, that was enough to allow the Grizzlies to leapfrog the Cougars in the standings.

Afterward, there was some confusion regarding the rules surrounding the obstruction of a runner. Julian happened to have a rule book in his car, and after consulting it a meet official ruled that McBride's arm-block of Jackson was grounds for disqualification.

Soon the points were adjusted to account for the decision, leaving Ashland in second with 49 points and Mountain View third with 55 points.

For Julian, the ruling could have been seen as a phenomenal stroke of good luck, offering his team a second chance to perform up to its own expectations on the biggest stage of all.

Instead, it just didn't sit well.

"To go to state that way, I wasn't feeling good about it at all," he said. "In fact, I felt pretty sick about it. Actually, I was supposed to do the awards ceremony afterwards, and I was trying to find somebody to do it for me."

Unsure of how to handle the news, Julian was paid a visit by Ashland High athletic director Karl Kemper, who offered another solution — to forfeit the spot to Mountain View. Julian thought about it, and decided to leave it up to his team.

At first, Julian said, the Grizzlies were leaning toward accepting the state berth, but the sentiment changed after Julian, Kemper and Julian's assistant, Jenn Shelton, were asked what they would do in the same situation. They all agreed that they would defer to Mountain View.

"But I said, 'But you guys need to make the decision,'" Julian said. "'You're the ones that ran the race. I get to coach every year, but this is your time, so I can understand whatever decision you make.'"

Moments later the Grizzlies voted to do what they later said was, "the right thing." It was nearly unanimous: 6-1.

"Yeah, it was the right decision," said Colin Haug, one of three seniors on the team who gave up their final opportunity to run at Lane Community College on Saturday. "It's terrible that we're not going to state, but if we would have ran faster we would have been going to state no matter what."

Josh Franckowiak, another senior, agreed, adding that for him, winning the right way won out over winning at all cost.

"When I thought about it, if I was in Mountain View's position I would hope that they would do the same thing," he said. "I feel like they were the better team that day and they deserved it. Ever since we were kids we were always taught that being a good sport was always the most important thing and we just got the opportunity to show that that was still the most important thing, even in high school sports."

The Grizzlies' decision earned them some extra media attention this week, as two local television stations ran features about it. They've also received plenty of feedback from the community. It's been overwhelmingly positive, according to Julian, but junior Isaac Schaaf, who placed eighth, added that a few students also have asked, "What were you guys thinking."

Julian understands that viewpoint. For a while, he admits, he may have actually agreed with it.

"Actually, Sunday was for me, really tough," he said. "I was kind of agonizing over, 'Was that the right thing to do?' I kind of felt like we had the opportunity to go to state, and I had kind of buyer's remorse.

"But the more time went on, I'm glad that I trusted my gut and trusted the feelings of (Kemper) and the kids. The more time goes on, it feels more and more like we did the right thing."

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