Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Age rule boots dream of playing

By William Croyle
Enquirer contributor

FALMOUTH - Larry Mynes was on top of the world when he made the Pendleton County High School soccer team this year.

But a state law will prevent Mynes, who has Cornelia de Lange syndrome, from finishing the season.

The team might also have to forfeit two games he played in.

Mynes was informed by the school last week that he is ineligible to play because he's too old. The 19-year-old senior was devastated.

"I don't like it," Mynes said. "This is my first year playing on a school team."

Cornelia de Lange syndrome is similar to Down syndrome. Larry's parents, Harold Mynes and Rena Ashley, said he is mentally on a second-grade level.

Mynes was on both the junior varsity and varsity squads. It wasn't until a varsity game last week - a few weeks into the season - that some people watching the game questioned his age with the school's athletic director, Tom Woofter.

"We were talking about how good it was to see Larry get into the game," Woofter said. "But then somebody said, 'Isn't he 21?'

"They had nothing against Larry. They just thought he might be ineligible."

Woofter knew Mynes wasn't 21, but he checked his file the next day. Mynes turned 19 on March 29. Bylaw 3 of the Kentucky High School Athletic Association says a student is ineligible to play sports if he turns 19 before Aug. 1.

The school immediately notified Mynes' parents and the KHSAA.

"It was an accident. It slipped under the radar, and I take full responsibility," principal John White said. "It's unfortunate. Larry is very well-liked throughout the school."

White said records are usually checked when students participate on a team. Woofter said a change in the school's data system this year contributed to the oversight.

White said he did not ask the KHSAA to make an exception for Mynes after the discovery. "There is no exception. You don't even ask them," he said.

The bylaw is clear. It states: "A student who becomes 19 years old before August 1 shall be ineligible for interscholastic athletic competition. The Board of Control and the Commissioner may not adopt administrative procedures that allow for waiver of this rule under any condition." The bylaw was even made a state law in 1998.

Butch Cope, spokesman for KHSAA, said the association could not comment on the situation because all of the paperwork on the issue had not been received from the school.

Woofter said he expects the team to forfeit two victories in games Mynes played in against Covington Latin and Holmes.

Mynes has kept up his enthusiasm, helping the team on the sidelines as a ball boy. But his parents said he is having a hard time understanding why he can't play.

"He lives for sports," Harold Mynes said. "This has been a big letdown for him."

Added Rena Ashley: "All he knows is that he can't play. That is what is so hurtful about this. Why did they put him through this if the rule is so cut and dried?"

Mynes' coach, Tony Bentley, said he wishes the rule wasn't so rigid.

"It would be nice if there was some kind of stipulation for a situation like this," he said.

But Woofter said that if the KHSAA makes exceptions for one person, others might want exceptions.

"It's either got to be right or wrong," Woofter said. "We're sorry this happened. His coach did what he could for him. This is bad for Larry, but it's the rule."


E-mail williamcroyle@yahoo.com

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