Last Thursday’s Iowa Class 1A boys 3,200-meter run was a wreck. A high school state track champion won a bungled race, had his gold medal stripped, and then received a new one in less than a week.
The 3,200-meter race consists of eight laps. A bell is traditionally rung when lead runners begin their final lap; in this race, it was mistakenly rung as lead runners began their seventh lap. The bell also duped the announcer, who spoke as if it were the final lap. With this misinformation rattling around their heads, some runners, like Will Roder, a junior at LeMars Gehlen, began their sprint to the finish at the end of the seventh lap.
Joe Anderson, a senior at George-Little Rock, was in second place behind Roder after seven laps. As Roder began his sprint, Anderson kept pace with him, even though he was aware of the error. “Two to go, he starts taking off like it’s the finish. So I go with him. He had miscounted the laps,” Anderson told KMEG 14 after the race. He said he always keeps track of the laps in his head.
After finishing lap seven, Anderson kept going, and became the first runner to complete eight laps. Roder eventually finished eight laps too, but fell well behind. Skip to 2:07 of this KMEG report to see how confused Roder was at the conclusion of the seventh lap when Anderson kept going, and again at the conclusion of the race.
As the first to complete eight laps, Anderson was initially awarded the gold medal. That night, after reviewing the race, the Iowa High School Athletic Association opted to strip Anderson of the medal and award it instead to Roder, who was in the lead after seven laps. “The race’s official results will be based on the runners’ placements after seven laps, when most participants appeared to consider the race over,” read an official IHSAA statement.
Anderson took the ruling in stride, writing that being stripped of the gold medal “hurts a lot ... But my identity does not come from the trophies that I have won or the ones that have been taken away. It comes from who I am in Christ.”
But on Monday, as KTIV reported, the state association chose to award additional post-meet medals to the top three finishers after eight laps. That meant Joe Anderson, who correctly counted his laps and finished them first, got a gold medal, finally.
“We know these awards cannot make up for the frustration these competitors and their supporters felt last week, but hope they can serve as a positive reminder of their accomplishments,” read the IHSAA statement.