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Act of praise deemed "excessive" costs Columbus track team chance at state

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When the Texas High School State Track and Field Meet comes to UT next weekend, a regional champion relay team won't be making the trip to Austin.

The Columbus High School 400-meter relay team won by a good margin in last week's Regional Meet but in the end. The team lost when a judge ruled the team's anchor leg showed excessive celebration as he crossed the tape when he pointed toward the sky.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott caught wind of this Thursday and tweeted, "disgraceful: winning track team disqualified for praising god."

To borrow the phrase not so fast.

"Whether or not it's a ball just on the outside or a strike that just barely hits the corner of the plate, those are all up for interpretation they're all judgment calls, it's the same thing here," said UIL Deputy Director Jamey Harrison.

Harrison says the UIL hasn't seen any video of the so called unsporting conduct by the Columbus High athlete religious expression or not.

"There is no national federation rule that has anything against a sign of religious expression nor does the UIL have any such rule... this was a judgment call by a meet referee who made the decision in his opinion that this was an unsporting act," Harrison said.

Columbus High Junior Derek Hayes was found by the meet judge to have celebrate excessively.

"How devastating for a high school track athlete, obviously a star athlete a member of a team to be punished for an expression of his religious faith," said Jonathan Seanz of Texas Values.

Seanz believes this was a case of total over reaction.

"Pointing to the sky was excessive celebration that seems like actually an excessive overreach of government restricting this student's religious freedom," Seanz said.

Jamey Harrison says the UIL has received numerous calls about this and he's tried to convince them it's not a UIL rule or a national federation track rule. The call was made by a track judge not employed by the UIL.

So as it stands the Columbus track team cannot challenge the ruling and won't be making the trip to Austin next week.

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