The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Maldonado asks state win be overturned


November 17, 2019

CLOVIS — Toward the finish line they ran, promising an exciting end to the season’s biggest cross country race.

Clovis’ Jerrick Maldonado and Piedra Vista’s Triston Charles were neck-and-neck in last weekend’s 5A championships. They crossed at around the same time, but who won?

Maldonado was depleted, falling down, nearly passing out from dehydration. Clovis head coach Mark Bussen helped tend to his runner, helped get him re-hydrated. He knew Maldonado had done well one way or the other, but helping him with hydration was his primary concern.

Bussen looked up, tuned in, and heard that Maldonado was announced the winner. He was thrilled for his athlete, especially since Maldonado’s teammate T.J. Gregg had taken a highly respectable fourth.

But after the Wildcats returned home and watched film, something wasn’t quite sitting right. The results, determined by electronic chips in the runners’ sneakers, said that Maldonado had won by half a second, which was a couple of meters. And that didn’t seem right to Bussen, or Maldonado. In the pre-chip days, they would’ve gone by whose torso had crossed first, and it seemed to Bussen that it was Charles’ torso. Bussen thought that maybe Charles’ foot might have crossed just an instant sooner, too.

“When I was looking,” Bussen said, “I thought, ‘Dang ... this doesn't look quite right. (Maldonado) was clearly the runner-up.”

Maldonado thought the same thing — Charles had won the race.

The New Mexico Activities Association, though, wasn’t going to change the result. That association decided it goes by the electronic chips; if it went by homemade videos, it would be spending hours if not days sifting through footage that people sent in. Which is why the NMAA decided to let technology decide it in the first place.

“That’s the right thing to do. I don’t fault them at all,” Bussen said. “They had the best system that they thought would give the right results, and it just made a mistake.”

But if the winner comes to the NMAA and says the gold medal should go to the other guy, the association will honor the request. And that’s what Maldonado and the NMAA did.

“Everybody did what they needed to do,” Bussen said. “The right kid was crowned a state champion and Jerrick was given the second-place finish he earned. It’s still the best in Clovis history. And for me to have two of the top four guys was awesome. I really have no disappointment at all. I was totally elated with the race.”

And happy that Maldonado was a stand-up person.

In fact, Bussen said that Maldonado didn’t want to comment, didn’t want attention. Clovis High wanted to note it at halftime of Friday night’s La Cueva-Clovis 6A quarterfinal game at Leon Williams Stadium, give Maldonado a compete-with-class award. Maldonado wouldn’t hear of it.

“He did not want to do that,” Bussen said, adding that Maldonado said, “‘I just want my medal and (I’ll) get ready for next season.’”

Bussen was impressed, but not terribly surprised.

“A kid with that kind of character was over the top for me,” Bussen said. “That means more than any kind of medal.”

In the end, even without halftime fanfare at Leon Williams Stadium, Maldonado had competed with class after all.


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