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Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018: Cazenovia runner lauded for sportsmanship

   Leading off today: A Cazenovia cross country runner is being praised for stopping to help a vision-impaired competitor who fell as they neared the finish line during the Auburn Invitational.

   Sophomore Jake Tobin had just been passed by Fairport senior Luke Fortner, who is visually impaired and was running with guide Jerry Thompson. As they approached the finish, Fortner slipped and fell while running up a hill. Tobin stopped to assist Fortner to his feet and helped him up the incline.

   Tobin, Thompson and Fortner crossed the line together.

   Spectator Karen Kraus Wylie shared photos of the sequence on the Cazenovia school district's Facebook page and praised Tobin for his actions. The posting has attracted numerous reactions, including a response from a woman identifying herself as Fortner's mother.

   "I had the opportunity to shake Jake's hand right after this race," Cindy Spencer Fortner wrote. "My son is the runner he helped up and I was overwhelmed with Jake's sportsmanship and kindness. What a wonderful gesture and, from what I could tell, Jake didn't see what the big deal was in his actions. Amazing character!"

   Fairport coach Sean Van Laeken also praised Tobin in an email to Cazenovia AD Michael Byrnes, calling it "an awesome display of sportsmanship and kindness."

   NYSPHSAA meeting: The NYSPHSAA Executive Committee met Tuesday in Saratoga Springs. Although most of the votes taken were related to minor issues and proposals, there was the usual array of news coming out of the meeting:

    • President Paul Harrica announced the formation of a committee to explore whether the NYSPHSAA should dip a toe into eSports. Online gaming has grown rapidly and has made its way into several state associations and there are multiple school districts in New York with clubs competing online via national organizations.

   One issue sure to come up is whether eSports is more of an activity rather than a sport. If so, it raises the question of whether the NYSPHSAA might also embrace debate, music and theater and become the umbrella for both athletics and activities in New York, similar to how some other states are organized. The NYSPHSAA would not be obligated to go in that direction, but eSports could be seen as an incremental step in that direction at a later date.

    • Discussions continued on rule books as well as the possible expansion of state championships to six classes in a handful of sports.

    Softball, girls basketball and boys and girls volleyball do not conduct their contests under National Federation of State High School Associations rules, which has become the subject of increasingly impassioned discussion for the past year. The coordinators for those sports made their pitches in front of the Executive Committee, and it looks as though a vote will come no later than next spring.


   One oft-cited reason for going exclusively with NFHS rules has been that it would allow New York to have a seat on the NFHS rules committee in the affected sports. It was pointed out, however, that New York is part of an eight-state region that rotates representatives anyway, so the effect is relatively negligible.

   The six classes discussion took on a new wrinkle. The football committee has been a strong advocate of going to six classes in no small part as a safety issue to cut down on games between teams with large enrollment disparities.

   For the first time, however, it was pointed out that football would not have the required 501 or more teams participating to allow for a sixth class. That's because Section 8 and 11 programs would not count toward the total since Long Island teams do not compete in the state playoffs.

   One argument in support of a sixth class in sports such as basketball and softball is the potential attendance boost, football site

which brings with it more revenue. The sentiment at the moment is that the 2017-18 school year may have simply been an anomaly, but there were noticeable drops in attendance in many championships last year.

    • The Executive Com- mittee approved Vernon-Verona-Sherrill as host for the 2020 and '22 cross country championships and Chenango Valley State Park as the host in 2021. Staten Island's Ocean Breeze Athletic Complex was approved to continue as the host of the indoor track and field championships for three more years through 2022.

    • The NYSPHSAA is separating its boys tennis tournament from the Federation champion- ships. The Federation tournament will be contested the week after the NYSPHSAA champ- ionships.

    • Now that the use of video replay in the sport has been approved for postseason games, the hockey committee has come forward with a proposed protocol that was spelled out to the Executive Committee.

   The highlights of the proposal include: (1) Final decisions will be in the hands of an on-ice official after reviewing replays; (2) A coach cannot make a challenge if his team does not have a timeout remaining; (3) Challenges have to be declared immediately upon a coach asking for a timeout, thereby reducing delays.

    • The baseball committee brought forward a proposal to allow the pitcher to also begin the game as his team's designated hitter and remain as the DH even if he is taken off the mound during the game. The rationale is to reduce wear and tear the pitcher's arm might be subjected to by playing in the field after pitching.

   Following up: Student leaders from Niskayuna and Schenectady could meet next week to discuss last week's girls varsity soccer game, where racist comments were directed at Schenectady players, The Daily Gazette reported.

   Niskayuna officials are still investigating the incident, but administrators in both districts have acknowledged that racist comments from the Niskayuna student section were directed at Schenectady players during the game.

   The two districts are working to bring together students to discuss what happened and develop ideas about how to strengthen the districts' relationship with one another. The respective student councils have also been in communication.

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