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At the conclusion of the 2015 PSAL girls swimming and diving season, Francis Lewis High School, the long time rival of Townsend Harris, ended their year triumphantly, winning the PSAL City Championship in early November. However, the accomplishment is now mired in controversy after Stuyvesant High School and later THHS filed complaints about Francis Lewis for allegedly breaking the rules.
According to rule 23.3 of the Public School Athletic League (PSAL) Swimming Rules and Regulations, a student athlete must participate in at least five regular season dual meets in order to participate in all post-season events. Despite not fulfilling these requirements, two divers from Francis Lewis competed in all postseason meets in which their team participated.
The governing PSAL organization permitted these actions due to “medical exemptions” for the two divers in question.
However, Francis Lewis coach Natalia Cardona Posada did not present the medical notes to excuse the ineligible athletes until after the regular season ended, and did not show the physical notes to PSAL referees nor to Robert Konolowski, the girls’ swimming commissioner.
Peter Bologna and Jim Jordan, the respective coaches of Stuyvesant’s and Townsend Harris’s swim teams, filed complaints following the championship meet. Although PSAL’s appeal process affords for an official response within 48 hours from the commissioner of the sport, both coaches received a belated response from Donald Douglas, the executive director of PSAL rather than Konolowski.
According to Mr. Douglas, despite handing in their medical exemptions days after the conclusion of the regular season, the two questioned divers still had valid excuses to compete.
Upon hearing these allegations, the Townsend Turtles were shocked, and feel this amounts to cheating. Captain Belinda Wong said, “I feel like the Franny team really ruined their reputation as respectable swimmers. The whole city knows they’re great swimmers and they train just like the rest of us so I found it unnecessary that they had to cheat for their meet.”
Sophomore Alexandra Ge added, “Sneaky tactics have no merit. I’m not fond of the way Franny Lew teams handle themselves. I lost respect for them as a team.”
Junior Alexis Sarabia was equally as disappointed as the other girls but still held her opinion in moderation.
Although she does believe these allegations to be true, Alexis still acknowledges “that Townsend would not have beaten them [in the playoffs] if the rules were followed.”
In the first round of the postseason, the Turtles lost to Francis Lewis by a score of 67 to 38, resulting in the points scored by the allegedly illegal divers to be arbitrary.
On the other hand, the supposed cheating deeply affected Stuyvesant.
In the semi-final meet, Francis Lewis edged out Stuyvesant, 53 points to 49, a difference of a mere two events.
According to Belinda, without the use of Lewis’s one diver, the outcome of this meet would’ve changed. “If the divers from Franny were disqualified, then Stuy would have won based on the final score on PSAL,” she said.The PSAL’s limited actions in settling these allegations intensified these feelings of disgust.
“I was more surprised at how the PSAL officials let this slide and allowed Franny to face zero consequences,” said Belinda. Adding on, Alexis believes that the “PSAL should be held just as accountable as the Francis Lewis team. PSAL has rules for a reason and if the PSAL Commissioners are not following the rules themselves then what’s the point?”
The representatives of PSAL and the Francis Lewis Swim Team have not yet provided comments on this story. We will update our online version if they do.
Although the girls varsity swimming season did not come to an end on a light note, the Turtles look to use this altercation as inspiration for next year.
Jane concluded, “If Stuy deserves the victory, give it to them. If not, I’m not worried. Lewis will definitely be defeated by the Turtles next year.”