Derrick Hayes crossed the finish line to win the 4x100 relay for Columbus High School (Texas) and made a gesture countless athletes have made for years, pointing to the sky to thank God.
But Hayes' "act of faith" cost the Mighty Cardinals the meet and a chance to advance to the state championships, as the team was disqualified for the gesture, according to KHOU News in Houston.
The action was interpreted as violating a high school sports rule that bars excessive acts of celebration, including raising hands.
From KHOU's Andrew Horansky and Tiffany Craig:
His father believes he was giving thanks in a gesture to God.
“It was a reaction,” father KC Hayes said. “I mean you’re brought up your whole life that God gives you good things, you’re blessed.”
Columbus ISD Superintendent Robert O’Connor said the team had won the race by seven yards. It was their fastest race of the year.
“I don’t think that the situation was technically a terrible scenario as far as his action, but the action did violate the context of the rule,” Supt. O’Connor said.
But critics, including the runner’s father, see it as a violation of religious freedom. Some of them have even complained to the state, which does not appear to be budging.
“You cross a finish line and you’ve accomplished a goal and within seconds it’s gone,” KC Hayes said. “To see four kids, you know, what does that tell them about the rest of their lives? You’re going to do what’s right, work extra hard, and have it ripped away from you?”