UPDATE: The Vermont Principal's Association ruled this afternoon that Minh John Lu will be allowed to compete in the New England Championships at Burlington High School in two weeks, Burlington High School principal Amy Mellencamp told Seven Days. Scroll down for complete update...
Hundreds of people are coming to the defense of a star long jumper at Burlington High School after he was disqualified from competing at the upcoming New England championships.
Minh John Lu, a BHS senior, was disqualified at the Essex invitationals this past weekend after a Middlebury coach complained about a logo visible on the athlete's compression shorts. The shorts are part of the BHS uniform, and team members have been wearing them in competitions throughout the year.
State rules govern how big a logo can be on an article of clothing worn during competition, and it varies depending on the garment.
The ruling keeps Lu from competing in the New England championships where it is expected he would place among the top long jumpers in the region, if not end up in the top spot.
"I think it's just crazy to have the top long jumper in the state — by far — not competing in the New Englands and representing Vermont because of this violation," said Anderson, Lu's coach. Anderson said Lu is the best jumper in Vermont by nearly two feet.
Lu's best recorded jump this season is 21 feet, 10 inches, but the humble student athlete notes, he believes he can best that by close to two feet if conditions are right. Earlier this year he jumped 22 feet 8 inches in a New York competition.
The day after Saturday's meet in Essex, Kevin Chu, one of Lu's teammates and a top-ranked runner in his own right, wrote a letter to the Vermont Principal's Association asking them to reconsider Lu's disqualification. He also started a Facebook group, Protest the unjust disqualification of Minh John Lu of Burlington. The Facebook group went from a handful of supporters Sunday to nearly 700 as of Wednesday morning.
"On Sunday I wrote the letter and started the group and went to work and when I came home, my inbox was just filled," Chu told Seven Days.
"Many of the meet officials I talked to about this said the rule is in the rulebooks and they are obligated to enforce it, but I feel like track rules shouldn't matter if they don't affect the outcome of the competition," noted Chu. "There is no competitive advantage from wearing a logo. The rules in place to preserve safety and fairness and I'm all for them."
Besides, Chu adds, there are no rules saying how large a logo has to be on a pair of running shoes.
Chu was so upset with the ruling that he contemplated pulling out of the New England championships to protest the ruling. A star runner, Chu is in contention to place among the top runners.
In the end, Lu wouldn't allow him to back out.
"I think it shows how much he cares, but besides me he also has a really good chance at being all New England as well — I want him to run no matter what happens to me," said Lu. "And no matter what happens to me, I just want my teammates to focus on states this weekend — that should be the main focus for us."
The star jumper has been overwhelmed by the response to his predicament, and is trying to do his best to remain focused on this weekend's state championships. He's hoping he and his teammates can bring home a crown for the hometown crowd.
That selfless attitude has inspired many of his teammates and members of the community to rally behind him.
"New England is big but right now I'm focused on states," adds Lu, who has been competing in track events since middle school. "Whatever happens, happens and I just want to thank everyone for doing this. It's been amazing."
Lu will compete in the New England championships in the triple jump, which is not his best event. But he did qualify at the recent invitational in that event. As a top jumper in Vermont, he'd like to represent the state in the regional competition and give Vermont a shot at taking home a title in the long jump, which is his signature event.
Mike Anderson said Lu should not be disqualified because of he, the coach, made an error.
"I want to publicly apologize to Minh, for not doing my job to the best of my ability. I hope this works out for him as he is not only one of the best athletes I have ever coached, but one of my best friends," Anderson noted in a recent post to the Facebook page.
Anderson hopes Bob Johnson, the VPA official in charge of reviewing appeals, overturns the ruling and let's Lu represent Vermont in the New England competition.
Johnson failed to return phone calls from Seven Days as of this posting.
Lu remains optimistic but understands the decision is out of his hands.
"I'm not trying to get anyone else DQ'd, but there were other kids who wore the same outfit that I was and had the logo right on top, so I honestly don't know why the Middlebury coach came after me," said Lu. "I'm upset but can't really do anything about it — I just hope it all turns out positive in the end."
VPA officials could rule by the week's end.
(Photo of Minh John Lu courtesy of Kath Monstream)
UPDATE 3:50 p.m.:The Vermont Principal's Association ruled this afternoon that Minh John Lu will be allowed to compete in the New England Championships at Burlington High School in two weeks, Burlington High School principal Amy Mellencamp told Seven Days.
"The letter essentially states that Minh John competed in good faith and had in fact been wearing the uniform that the school supplied him and that he had been competing in all year," said Mellencamp. "I'm really glad this was the decision, as it was through no fault of his own that this happened."
Even though six competitors have already been named to the Vermont team, Lu will be able to compete, said Bob Johnson, VPA's activities director. Johnson issued the ruling this afternoon.
"There was no reason to punish a student for something the adults did wrong," said Johnson. "And, I also wanted to make sure that our decision didn't mean that one of the six qualifying athletes wouldn't be able to compete."
The athlete in question, Minh John Lu, was practically speechless when he heard the news.
"It feels great. I was so excited and really happy to hear the news, I'm still pretty much speechless," said Lu.
The VPA also said the school's track coaches would be on a one-year probation and would have to complete a refresher course on official track rules and prove they had studied the rulebook, added Johnson. They have until the start of next year's track season to prove they have read up on the rules.
Johnson said the rule related to logos on sports jerseys is applied in all 50 states, and is there to avoid gross commercialization of team uniforms.
"This isn't as much of a problem in Vermont, but in larger states its a big issue," said Johnson.