BY MAIRE O’NEILL
The parent of a student athlete from Los Alamos High School is pursuing a formal complaint she filed May 1 with the New Mexico Activities Association. A formal complaint about the same issue was also filed by LAHS Athletic Director Ann Stewart on behalf of LAPS. The issues raised by parent Luckie Daniels pertain to how times for athletes are sometimes determined and recorded at individual school district track and field events by coaches and how those processes can affect which athletes qualify for state competitions.
Daniels became aware April 29 of the time of 11.4 seconds listed for Alamogordo High School athlete Yvonne Stinson from the April 28 100m event at the Mayfield Invitational track meet in Las Cruces. At the time, her daughter Jaiya Devi Daniels was ranked #1 in the state in the 100m with a time of 12.04, as well as the 200m, long jump and triple jump.
“While discussing what was defined as a ‘fake time’ by track team members present, it was shared with Jaiya that ‘this happens all the time here’; it was shared that close to State Championships fake stats, particularly running times and jumps, that allow NM Athletes to end their seasons with qualifying marks that move them forward to State Championship competition is a common practice.
Daniels said initially troubling was the 11.40 time reported for Stinson who in the 100M this season had previously run her best time of 12.48,
“It is virtually impossible for a high school sprinter with an average 100M time of 12.6238 to reduce her sprint time by 1.22 seconds within a week competition window,” she said. After examining the results of the Mayfield 100m junior varsity and varsity events, Daniels was troubled to find “an oddity in the time scoring that rounded Girls JV/Varsity Athlete times to the 10th of the second and an improvement on their previous week’s times by 1-2.5 seconds,” Daniels said.
On May 1, she reported the concerns to LAHS coach Ernie Martinez as well as NMAA Assistant Director Chris Kedge who responded May 2 only that he had been in communication with the director of the Mayfield meet.
Daniels then requested a meeting with LAHS Athletic Director Ann Stewart to address the complaint and Kedge’s response. Daniels said Stewart told her the concerns raised might be more successful if she allowed Stewart to communicate with NMAA given their relationship and asked Daniels to give her until after the State Championships May 12-13 to follow up with her.
Daniels initially agreed but changed her mind and notified Kedge, Stewart and NMAA Executive Director Sally Marquez of her intent to move forward with her formal complaint and asked that NMAA conduct an investigation into the matter. Daniels also made it known that she intended to initiate formal IPRA request for documentation and communications relating to the Mayfield Invitational event and related historical instances where time/stat reporting errors and/or impropriety have been reported to the NMAA.
Marquez’s response indicated that she had asked Kedge to contact the Mayfield meet official and timer who had indicated the timing system throughout the meet had been running properly and that they had certified the results.
“Although, I did question the times, there was nothing at the meet for them to notice any discrepancies,” Marquez said in her email. She said due to the fact that the meet had concluded there was “no way to terminate the results of the 100m by rule”.
“Although Milesplit keeps results of the regular season meets, the NMAA does not acknowledge any times for state records by class nor times for ‘overall’ records in all classes unless it is performed at the State meet due to discrepancies that may occur at regular season meets,” Marquez said.
At that point Daniels had not received any response from Marquez or any program or meet official. She immediately responded, again requesting an explanation of “the timing idiosyncrasies, verification by means of meet official film, and clarification of why bylaws were being references as justification for not pursing an investigation”.
On May 5, Daniels emailed LAHS Athletic Director Ann Stewart regarding the process for filing a formal NMAA and questioning the actions being taken by LAHS Athletics to address her complaint. Stewart sent a letter to NMAA asking that the situation be investigated and noting that “it seemed apparent that many of the times reported from the Mayfield Invitational are incorrect”.
“This could affect state seeding at next week’s meet. One of the times that appears to be the biggest error is what is reported for the girls 100m for Yvonne Stinson who shows to have run an 11.40 second race. This is much faster than she has run all year,” Stewart said. “Many of the times, specifically on the girls side at this invitational, appear to be rounded to the 10th of a second.”
Stewart continued, “As this does not seem to be the only meet in which this has happened, my question and the question of this parent is what can be done to verify that these are, in fact, the correct results of this race? How can the NMAA ensure that timing officials are submitting correct results in the interest of fairness for all the student athletes involved?”
Stewart suggested that Daniels set up a meeting with Marquez. Daniels told Stewart that requests for public records under the Inspection of Public Records Act would be submitted to involved parties May 8 including school districts and schools in Division 3-5A, governing bodies and meet officials for all communication regarding the Mayfield Invitational. Prior to submitting the IPRA requests, Daniels received an email from attorney Mark Geiger requesting that she direct all further communications to NMAA to him.
Daniels told the Los Alamos Reporter that the real issue at play is that the processes, the decision makers and the supporting documentation are “all flawed”. Just days before the state competition, she said her concern was that impropriety has been quietly allowed to happen and then gets further muted by misplaced alliances and the absence of holding each other accountable”.
She said she is seeking real answers, correction of the errors made and real policy change as it relates to the New Mexico athletics program officials and the NMAA’s role in ensuring the program’s integrity.
“My hope is that the timing errors that occurred at the Mayfield Invitational will be corrected. I hope this action is the catalyst for much needed NMAA process, protocol and program integrity improvements that do a better job at ensuring fair competition and best practices for New Mexico athletic programs,” Daniels said.
On May 10, just two days before the state competition, Daniels received an email from Marquez, “MileSplit 100-meter rankings have been updated and do not reflect the times of the Mayfield Invitational. I ask that you withdraw the IPRA request from the NMAA and participating schools.”
Daniels is declining to withdraw the extensive IPRA request. In her response to Marquez’s request she said there is clearly misconduct, impropriety, and a flawed system of NMAA accountability at the core of the matter.
“Your absence of responsibility to me and any consideration of me [or my daughter] did not afford us equity in this matter, and could very well be the output of implicit bias and racism. If that is the case, the real-time, off-record commentary of the parties involved will certainly reflect it,” she said.
Daniels said her actions were never solely about restoring her daughter’s #1 status in the 100m event albeit “she has worked incredibly hard to earn that placement and had every right to take this stand”.
“The NMAA and the officials involved in this matter failed every Student-Athlete impacted by this event. The absence of accountability and ethics that allow cheating and impropriety is unfair to EVERY Student-Athlete competing in Youth Track and Field, failing them and the parents/families who sacrifice for them to have the opportunity to train and compete,” she said. “At just this single event, how many officials recognized something very wrong happened, yet chose to ignore what was right? How many of those Student-Athletes had false seed times entered by coaches that will bring them to this weekend’s State Championship to compete?”