Track: South Pasadena’s Laird caught in whirlwind of national radar screen after controversial disqualification

CLICK HERE FOR A PHOTO GALLERY OF SOUTH PASADENA’S ROBIN LAIRD

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By Miguel A. Melendez, Staff Writer

SOUTH PASADENA — Commentators, bloggers and the national media continued Wednesday to debate the finish of a dual track meet that ended in controversy when a pole vaulter was disqualified for wearing a friendship bracelet.

The April 29 meet between South Pasadena and Monrovia high schools hit the national radar screen Tuesday when Sports Illustrated published a detailed piece about pole vaulter Robin Laird’s disqualification.

“Right now it seems as if its turned into a monster of its own,” said South Pasadena track coach P.J. Hernandez. “I never thought it would get this much publicity … Now this is national coverage its crazy”

During the April 29 meet, Monrovia co-coach Mike Knowles pointed out Laird’s friendship bracelet violated national rules prohibiting jewelry. He did it after Laird cleared 7-feet-6-inches and seemingly won the Rio Hondo League title for Tigers.

Knowles was instructed Wednesday not to discuss the incident.

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“The focus should go back to the girls,” said Monrovia High School principal Darvin Jackson. “…Allow them to enjoy the fruit of their labor. The adults at the table who are responsible hope to come to a resolution and put it behind us.”

Athletic directors and administrators from both schools met Wednesday evening at South Pasadena High School. Both sides will release statements Thursday, Jackson said.

At a Wednesday afternoon practice for the CIF-Southern Section Division 3 championship, television crews from local stations set up cameras and did interviews with Laird and others. Producers from sports talk radio stations also sought interviews with the pole vaulter and her coach.

“It’s definitely been overwhelming,” Laird said. “What’s surprising is how worked up people are getting over this. This has happened all over the country and I’m sure other teams have suffered this kind of situation.”

Laird said the offending bracelet, made of cloth, slipped her mind.

“Before every meet, I’m conscious of taking off my earrings and necklaces,” she said. “But, I just never really thought about the wristband. I’ve been wearing it nonstop since November.”

A four-year letterman, Laird plans on attending USC, but won’t run track. Her 7-6 jump was the best mark of the day. South Pasadena’s Rachel Ma and Monrovia’s Samantha Boltz and Gabby McBride all cleared 7-0.

Hernandez said Laird’s Facebook page has been bombarded with supportive messages. South Pasadena has also received several phone calls of support.

“A lot of strangers have been calling questioning the jewelry rule and what’s the spirit of the law and the intent of it,” Hernandez said.

Rich Gonzalez, editor of DyeStatCal.com, a track and field website, said regardless of the uproar, rules are rules.

“Coaches are always complaining that the rules need to be changed, its an annual gripe that coaches have and the masses realize some of these rules don’t seem to mae sense. But, as long as it’s a rule it’s up to the coaches to educate their kids about the rules.”

miguel.melendez@sgvn.com

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  • Amused Reader

    No wonder nobody cares about track. It’s a shame a coach needs to win like that. He should be let go on the spot. A disgrace to say the least.

  • Anonymous123

    How about the Wildcats Baseball team Winning its 5th title without breaking any rules? just hard and fair play…. She’s pretty but I done with this one….Next time have your coach read the rule book and stick with it like everyone else does. It was warned that same day with the boys 4×400 meter relay so you would think that this coach would have let his team know that little things such as this can no be tolerated.

  • http://SanFranPreps.com JAB

    Please, enough with the rules-are-rules argument. There is nothing to be gained from taking a title away from an amateur athlete on a rule like this. It took the title away from the girl and brought negative attention to the Monrovia team, for something that isn’t their fault.

    I understand that rules are there for a reason, and the South Pas coach should have been aware as well, but at some point common sense and decency has to take over.

    The move by the Monrovia coach was gutless, and I would question whether I wanted my child to be on a team that was headed by someone comfortable with making a move like that. It’s not in the spirit of competition and you should expect more from a coach who is responsible for guiding youth.

  • Leo

    Wow! Mike knowles should be ashamed of himself. He should have turned the other cheek. to win on a technicality such as this is rediculous. I wouldn’t want this guy coaching or working for me ever. And where are the girls from the Monrovia H.S. track team? They should speak out and not accept the championship. I wouldn’t want to accept a worthless trophy for this kind of win, or is it a win?

  • Anonymous

    so now we are all agreeing to break rules?

    The rule makes very little sense until someone actually get hurt because the bracelet gets stuck on the pole and the kid break a hand or something worst then it makes sense right?

    Maybe this will bring a rule change. Just because people don’t think a rule make sense does not mean we should just allow athletes to break them. We are teaching them that rules are to be followed, If it was a college meet and a coach did that it would not have gotten so much attention. But then again the refs are very strict at that level, I think the ref was the one at fault for not noticing the bracelet and having someone else do his job for him.

  • Leo

    Shure rules are rules and stealing is stealing. But this guy, Mike Knowles is a worthless scoundrel that does not deserve to be a Co-Coach. I hope he gets enough heat that he moves on. Maybe he should coach in Russia or Cuba. Maybe he should look up Obama for a job and steal more of my hard earned money.

    Monrovia students should hang their heads in shame.

  • chuck

    How sad for Robin’s accomplishment. It is even more sad for the girls track team of Monrovia High School and the school itself. To win by such a petty technicallity. For the Monrovia coach to even have called this to the judges attention shows a pettiness and lack of sportsmanship on his part. And to think, he is supposed to teaching our youth sportsmanship??? What a travisty. Of course Monrovia High School officials want to focus to be put back on their girls track team… it takes the attention away from the black eye their coach gave them.

  • anonymous

    It’s time to put the blame on the right person: Coach Hernandez. Quit trying to pass the blame on the opposing coach. Miss Laird was Hernandez’ responsibility to begin with. She broke the rule and the track officials agreed. Now for you MORONS who are trying to hang this on the Monrovia kids, SHAME ON YOU!!! It’s not the end of the world. Move on and quit living thru your kids!!!

  • matt

    How about this for a life and sportsmanship lesson: “Okay kids! I’m going to tell you guys again like I have before every other track meet. Please take off any jewelry of any kind including any friendship bracelets. Remember that this is against the rules and could get you disqualified. I know that it’s a pretty ridiculous rule. However, we need to abide by all the rules. Please police each other in case some of you forget.”

  • What about this:

    How come nobody is doing anything about Coach Knowles not following the CIF rules himself by failing to take the required coaches exam? Then all would be right again. All rules would be followed and South Pas would be the Champions. Are you going to call that on yourself Coach? You’ve been coaching 30 years and know a lot of rules, but you forgot to take responsiblity for yourself. Maybe the test would have covered how to act like a true sportsman?

  • chkyrslf

    OK, I hate to jump in to this, but I am… I personally have won playoff games through protest on technical but unintentional substitution issues in softball, and it never felt good. But, it did feel better than losing. I am being honest. It is easy to justify that when you are in a situation, because rules ultimately are rules. I cannot comment on the character of the coach because I do not know him (and I wish that others would do the same) but I think this is less of a indictment on this particular coach and more of an indication of hypocrisy for those that are overly critical. How many of you would avoid any penalty or loss if you had a way out suffering that loss or penalty, especially if it fit in to the rules. I can’t judge you, because I do not know you, but my guess is that a good percentage of people would make these least painful choice if given the opportunity. I have a feeling that this coach would do it differently if he had the chance to do it over again, because that would certainly be less painful, or maybe not. But, more importantly, I feel that people in glass houses should not throw stones… Even if it makes the national media spotlight.

  • HS Coach

    As Rich Gonzales stated, “rules are the Rules”. Over my 14 years as a track coach and finish line official there have been many kids disqualified for violating the rules regarding wearing jewelry and such. As coaches it is our responsibility to insure the kids comply. Friendship bracelet, grandmother’s ring,religious symbol etc. where do you draw the line. The answer is “none are allowed” per the rules.

    Coach Knowles was a member of the CIF SS T & F Rules Committee. He was totally justified in protesting. If Laird was my daughter I would not have a complaint. In fact my child was DQ for a similar violation several years ago. My answer, daughter you know the rules.

  • http://SanFranPreps.com JAB

    I think we can all agree the fact that this rule results in a disqualification is the real problem, I don’t really think that is in question.

    The issue, however, are the steps taken by a coach to willingly take advantage of an amateur athlete’s mistake. Not a mistake that improves he performance or the outcome of the match, but an aesthetic and a safety issue.

    For the “rules-are-rules” proponents, there are rules and laws that are so ridiculous or wrong, they are changed or are simply not abided by. Jim Crow laws were rules, but is it right to follow them simply because they are there? How about the new immigration law in Arizona?

    The “rules-are-rules” response is mindless. We are thinking beings, not sheep who follow rules just because they exist.

    An adult and authority figure took advantage of an amateur athlete, in the exact opposite spirit of everything sports is supposed to teach us. That is the issue.

  • Let’s move on

    the real blame is on whoever gave her the friendship bracelet. what kind of friend lets another friend get disqualified? in fact, the real blame is on whoever invented the friendship bracelet.. “you’re my friend, so here’s a string to remind you.” and if you want to delve into this even further, the real blame should be on whoever came up with ‘friends’ in the first place. friends are overrated. but the real blame should be on 80′s madonna. come on, who needs that many bracelets?

    http://bp1.blogger.com/_B7mZsudmeIA/SGz9zp0x6hI/AAAAAAAAFAk/zO9PiOSIZIc/s1600-h/1983-1.jpeg

  • Brad

    To HS Coach

    We’ve all had kids get DQ’d when an independant official makes the call. And we accept that.

    What made this a national headline is not that an official DQ’d a kid, but that a COACH went out of his way to bring it to their attention in a delibrate attempt to throw the results of the meet.

    Would you do what Knowles did? Would you go out of your way to push a DQ for your teams advantage when you knew you were tossing out a superior performance due to a technicality?

    I hope not. Our job is to coach. Not to call fouls or foot faults. Not to police the other team for mismatched socks or nike logos. Just coach, Coach.

  • Witness

    BigFatFan said:
    “I understand that ESPN radio Dan Patrick covered the story on the radio today, and ABC and Channel 9 are coming out for interviews at SP campus today. this story has also gotten legs on CNN and USA Today too…”

    Based on the above information I am certain that Coach Knowles wishes he would have handled it differently. I very much doubt this is how he expected his fifteen minutes of fame to transpire.

    That said, coaches need to think about the possible repurcussions prior to taking “bush, chicken$@*!, and unsportsman like action. Sometimes it is best to just walk away…..

    I guarantee you- when these photos hit the national media, they will not help his cause.

    Sorry Coach…Time to cowboy up!!

  • Taylor Swift

    Hey that girl looks like me!

  • HS Coach

    To Brad:

    You are right Brad our job is to coach, but also to advocate for our team. As coaches we expect our athletes to follow the rules and advise them on a regular basis. You asked would I have done the same, yes. I had it done to my team in the past and on one occasion asked for a DQ of another teams player. Rules called for all athletes to wear the same socks. The best athlete wore slightly different socks. It was brought to my attention by one of my players. The athlete was DQ’ed, we won. Did I feel sorry, no.

    Whatever the reason, whatever the rule, Coach Knowles did his job and the other coach didn’t.

    Oh by the way, 1)just coaching is to advise your team of the rules too and 2)in my 25+ years coaching various sports my integrity has never been questioned by kids, parents, officials or coaches because I follow the rules, even the stupid ones.

  • moneytalk

    This is a horrible way to win. The fact that Knowles raised this issue after he knew they were going to lose makes it wrong. If they won the meet, he would have not said anything and I guarantee this. I ran for Knowles back in day as a kid and with his kids as well and I did not realize he was like this. I always thought he was a reasonable man.

  • Witness

    HS Coach,

    Following your own advice….like Knowles, you too would look like an idiot on national television. Protesting a piece of string on a young ladies wrist?

    Please…What if it were an elastic band that she took off her ponytailed hair prior to her vault? You would consider it jewelery too huh?

    In your 25+ years of coaching you are very, very, fortunate parents or kids never saw your true colors..

    Contrary to your skewed perspective, in my 27 years of coaching, I have learned that when you get your a$$ kicked on the field you need to just walk away and deal with it-instead of looking for some obscure way of backing into the winner’s circle.

  • Anonymous

    If every coach acted like Knowles then who would want to
    play sports anymore? Is the piece of yarn really “jewelry”? I don’t consider yarn jewelry. Coach Knowles
    I feel sorry for anyone who has to live by you or any
    family members. Are you that technical with them too?

  • Amused Reader

    The fact that it wasn’t even a bracelet is what gets me. It was a piece of string. If it was a chain or something right out of the NBA that would be one thing, but we’re talking about a piece of string that overturned a team’s title. Get rid of the Monrovia coach like they did at Muir.

  • Really?

    I have a solution. How about the next time you’re participating in an event where it’s clearly stated that jewelry is not permitted, ie. necklace, bracelet, etc,… DON’T FREAKIN’ WEAR ONE!!

  • BigFatFan

    Knowles was fired for a reason by Muir in early 2009, now M-town is finding out why this guy is a creep. I have not heard one good thing about this guy since this furor erupted. no other coach in the area has come to his defense. sounds like the dude got his 5 minutes of fame in a not too desireable way.

  • Anonymous

    RECENT DISQUALIFICATION OF LAIRD

    I AM DR.FRANK LITTLE A QUALIFIED REFEREE FOR OVER 30 YEARS .I WAS PRESENT AT THE MEET AND WAS PRESENT AT THE POLE VAULT COMPETITION I OVERHEARD COACH KNOWLES MENTION TO THE COACH PRESENT THAT YOUR ATHLETE SHOULD NOT BE WEARING A BRACELET AND HE DID NOT TELL THE ATHLETE TO TAKE IT OFF.COACH KNOWLES DID NOT WAIT UNTIL SHE CLEARED 7’6” .SHE PASSED SEVERAL HEIGHTS BEFORE THAT.SO NOW SHE WAS ENGAGED IN COMPETITION HE HAS THE RIGHT TO PROTEST RULE 4-3 OF THE NFHS TRACK AND FIELD RULES SAYS ;JEWELRY SHOULD NOT BE WORN BY CONTESTANTS–PENALTY DISQUALIFICATION RELIGOUS MEDALS ARE NOT CONSIDERED JEWELRY AND MUST BE TAPED TO THE BODY UNDER THE UNIFORM…THE REEREE INFORMS THE COACHES AT A MEETING PRIOR TO THE START OF THE MEET.IT’S THE COACHES RESPONSIBILITY TO INFORM HIS ATHLETES.THE PUBLIC IS SETTING A BAD EXAMPLE BY SEEING THIS ATHELETE AS A VICTIM AND SHE BEING AWARE OF THE RULES,BECAUSE THIS IS NOT THE FIRST MEET BUT THE LAST MEET.YOUR TRULY DR.FRANK LITTLE

  • Anonymous

    Hey Dr. Frank…I’ve got a fever…and the only prescription is more CAPS

  • SPHS Fan

    Dr Frank Little

    Sir,
    You should get your facts straight. There is no way that Coach Knowles infomred the SPHS coaches about the friendship bracelet before the athlete jumped. By all accounts including that of coach Knowles, the infraction was observed after the winning jump and was then reported to the SPHS coaches. Maybe you should think before you open your mouth and stupidity comes out.

    If this is how you recall information maybe you shouldnt be an official.

  • Just Wondering Said Again

    Justice will be served when Coach Knowles dq’s all of this years victories because he has failed to take the required CIF coaches exam. Coach Knowles will be vindicated for making sure all of the rules he has learned in the past 30 years of coaching have been adhered to and South Pas will have their league Championship back.

    Maybe a positive will also be gained from this negative experience. The problem with dual meets is that there is only one head official. Most of the field events are run by teachers, parents, former athletes, and sometimes even current athletes. Unfortunately, they cannot be expected to know all of the rules to each event. Many times, us coaches have about 5 minutes to explain to them how to give them the basics of the event. In big meets like Arcadia, and the CIF meets, professional officials have meetings before the event starts to go over the no jewlrey, no cell phones, no video cameras, and basic rules of the event. What ends up happening is the athletes go through most of the season with very lax officiating and then they get caught later in the big meets by the “real” officials.

    Maybe CIF will decide that track is worth sending a full crew to all meets and treat them with the same Honor, Integrity, and Sportsmanship that they preach. These athletes are just as deserving as the allmighty football players. Lets treat all student athletes with equal funding and support.

  • Gloria Swanson

    JAB is a rule a “mistake” ? Or is the “mistake” the rule”? Did she make a “mistake” or did she break a “rule”. What it the DQ was a different rule, like not wearing team uniform or authorized shoes, tape on her hands, or had a grafitti on her pole? Where does it end?

    Every casual fan knows the rule, she’s a senior. She’s been to countless meets and at every single meet every runner knows the drill. “hand over the jewelry!” or “put it away!. All girls know this because they take off their earrings, at every single meet for four long years. What is the big deal? She’s a TV darling for costing her team mates the Championship.

    Years ago a Football team doctored a football to what advantage I don’t know. You still have read defenses, make the right throw and someone has to catch the ball. Doesn’t matter, they obviously broke the rules.

    This whiney brat and her “isn’t she so gracious” followers have to ask her team mates why they took their jewelry off. Why aren’t the cameras on her team mates? Ask tehm if they knew she was breaking the rules when everyone saw her wear the bracklet. She says she’s worn it non stop. I’m sure some one mentioned it, I know some one told her and I’m sure she hear every other athlete being told.

    The funny thing is she saw every girl without their earrings. They do still wear them right? Oh, wait…so do the boys…that’s right…boys wear earring as well and they took them off.

    Welcome to the real world princess, you’re not so special now are you…oh wait…SNAP!!!! “YOU STILL ARE !!!!”

    “Mr . Demille…”I’m ready for my close up!”

  • I SUPPORT COACH KNOWLES

    Want to know how mixed up this whole issue whole issue is ? She took off the bracelet in question for the picture. Really, so it comes off without causing trama. So she could have taken it off, countless times. And she didn’t! Countless times. And field judges over looked it. Countless times. And she ignored the rules and advice of her coach. Countless times. Sorry Ms. Special, you only thought of yourself and it came back and bite you in the …..wait….”ANOTHER INTERVIEW!!” What’s that? Taylor Swift called. NO WAY…ESPN !!! Why is everyone so upset? This wasn’t an isolated incident and had taken it off before. She never did. Did she take off any other jewelry?

    What if Bobby Thompson doesn’t touch second? Should the Dodgers tag him out? What would history have said then? Should we all rob Baseball of the most famous Home Run of all time ?

    Stop bagging on the coach, I’m sure people would think differently if a runner had cost them the Championship and the DQ happened earlier in the day. The timing doesn’t matter. She ignored them purposefully and now she’s famous.

  • stone

    Ok lets admit two things here…1. Rules are rules and the rules were known. and 2.The purpose of high school sports is to foster ideals such as dedication, hard-work, physical fitness and SPORTSMANSHIP in young athletes. The rules were clear, but Coach Knowles committed a horrible violation of sportsmanship. I personally have been a ‘winning’ athlete in a situation similar to this and I have to say their is no pride or honor associated with it. Yes, Laird did violate a rule (which I think is pretty ridiculous), but what kind of message did Coach Knowles send to his athletes? He has taught them that winning is the only goal and that it is alright to do anything to obtain a victory. Lets look at the bigger picture. In the grand scheme of things, a league championship is not that big of a deal, but what will remain is the supreme lack of sportsmanship and honor that Knowles has modeled for his athletes. There is no pride in winning something knowing that your competition was better than you. What got in the way of a great moment was Coach Knowles’ ego. We shouldn’t go on attacking Laird for her mistake because nobody is more upset than her. We also shouldn’t go attacking the Monrovia athletes. They didn’t do anything wrong…their coach did. In a situation such as this, nobody wins.

  • goteamgo

    I have a suggestion next season for the South Pas track team when the meet Monrovia.

    Have one of their athletes (or better yet an art student) get a few felt-tip markers. Take these markers and draw images of jewelry on the entire track team; take the felt marker and draw a bracelet, maybe a ring, an ankle bracelet, a neck chain, and maybe place a couple of dots on the ears for fake earrings.

    I guarantee it will drive the entire Monrovia coaching staff crazy, trying to determine if it is real or fake. Could be some fun.

  • HS Coach

    To Witness:

    I can clearly tell “your character” by your use of even one bit of profanity and personal attacks. I expressed an opinion. True colors,yes athletes I have been fortunate enough to coach have gone on to become fine human beings, knowing life’s challenges and successes.

    Again, my character has never been questioned and I follow the rules even stupid ones. Someone mentioned had it not resulted in a league win no one would have questioned the situation. Cheating goes on all over and win all the time and no one complains. How do the same 6 schools always get the best basketball, football, track and vollyball players? It’s cheating! But a coach for whatever reason follows a rule and we crucify him.

    I am no fan of Knowles but again as a coach it’s “MY” responsibility to ensure the rule was followed. But in spite of your personal attacks, I believe “the buck stops with me” as a coach and my kids will always be better off!!!!!!!

  • Gary

    I’d like to think we teach our kids to obey even the “little” rules. Yes, there are times when we as adult disregard a rule or two, but we’re adults and hopefully we are doing it for the right reasons. Kids, however, need to be trained that all rules should be obeyed, and that there are consequences for disobeying them. Ms. Laird’s breaking a rule led to her DQ but has made her a media star so the lesson is probably lost on her. I hope her teammates, who are not getting the same glamour, but who also los the league championship, will take it to heart.

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