The runner, Derrick Hayes reportedly lifted a finger to the sky in celebration, as he wrapped up the win for Columbus High School. According to his father, K.C. Hayes, he was simply pointing to God. But UIL officials disagreed and slapped the team with an "unsporting conduct" charge, disqualifying them from participating in the state championships.
"It's a sad deal. I think it's a travesty. Those kids work hard," K.C. Hayes told My FOX Houston."
As a team they reached their goal and in an instant it was just gone, over something we think is a non-issue. I guess someone else thinks it is an issue. He just said dad I was pointing at the heavens," said Hayes of his son's response to the incident.
On Thursday, the UIL defended the decision of its officials while noting that the matter was still being investigated.
"At the Region IV Conference 3A Track & Field regional meet held on Saturday, April 27 at Texas A&M Kingsville, a relay team from Columbus High School was disqualified by local meet officials for an unsporting act at the conclusion of the boys 4 x100 meter relay," UIL said in its statement.
"It's not a malicious act. It's not a taunting act. It's a 'we did it' and he (my son) knows where the source comes from. I know him. He's not a malicious kid. On the football field he'll hit you and then help you up," said Hayes.
"It's a harsh consequence for what some people may deem a small gesture," said Columbus I.S.D. Superintendent Robert O'Connor. "The rule states no celebratory gestures including raising your arms," he concluded.
Calling the incident "heartbreaking," O'Connor said since the event he has received several nasty e-mails including one that reads, "Dear sir, you, are an idiot."
Was Relay Team Disqualified From State Championships for 'Religious Gesture?'