Montgomery runner wins spot at state cross country meet after appeal

A Montgomery High School cross country runner left off the qualifying list for Saturday’s CIF state meet in Fresno has won an appeal and was added to the list Wednesday morning.

After the North Coast Section cross country championships were halted midway through competition Tuesday in Hayward because of worsening air quality, a state committee selected qualifiers based on previous performance criteria.

Leah Haley, a Montgomery senior, wasn’t included with other qualifiers Tuesday after the committee review.

Montgomery principal Randy Burbank appealed the decision, which could have bumped another runner, possibly Windsor’s Lilja Chung.

But Wednesday morning, NCS Commissioner Gil Lemmon approved Haley’s inclusion - without bumping any other qualifiers.

“Ultimately, in conversation with the CIF, they have decided to not delete any previous entries, but include Leah Haley,” he advised Burbank in an email. “NCS would have deleted the last entry, but glad that this was not necessary, and appreciate the flexibility and recognition of difficult times in NCS by the CIF office.”

Montgomery’s appeal on behalf of Haley was the only appeal submitted according to NCS bylaws, Lemmon said.

Burbank and Haley’s coaches argued her times were better than Chung’s in multiple 5,000-meter races this year.

“Leah is going to state, which is the main thing that needed to happen,” said Montgomery coach Melody Karpinski. “The No. 1 thing was she needed to get in and she got in.”

Haley competed at the state meet last year.

“I understand that would be a mistake to pull someone out” who qualified by committee vote, Karpinsky said. “But there are lots of questions how the NCS handled things this year, especially with canceling midway through, how pennants and medals will be handed out. They have to come up with a better process. The mental breakdown my athlete had to experience for the last 24 hours for a state meet she should have gotten into was just so wrong.”

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