Sequoyah-Tahlequah's Class 5A slowpitch softball state championship from last spring could potentially be in jeopardy after a decision by the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association board of directors at its monthly meeting Wednesday.
The board voted to deny the retroactive eligibility hardship appeal of Sequoyah-Tahlequah softball player Kelsey Leach.
Now a junior, Leach has played the last two years for Sequoyah-Tahlequah, but the school never filed hardship eligibility paperwork with the OSSAA after Leach transferred in from the Cave Springs school district. Leach never attended Cave Springs, but came from Rocky Mountain Schools, a dependent K-8 district. Her family resides in the Cave Springs district boundaries.
The OSSAA board ruled that Leach's request did not meet the requirements necessary to receive a hardship waiver, essentially making her an ineligible player for the last two years.
Now, the OSSAA staff members will examine her participation over those two years to rule on any potential game forfeits the team could face, including last spring's Class 5A state tournament.
The staff will also determine how many games Leach must sit out this season, based on her past participation. Typically, the OSSAA rule calls for a participating ineligible player to sit out as many games as he or she played in while ineligible, but OSSAA executive director Ed Sheakley said the staff would not penalize an athlete beyond one full school year.
After the staff rules on forfeitures from the last two seasons and Leach's future ineligibility, the school will again have the right to appeal those rulings to the board at a future meeting.
OU TOURNAMENT BEGINS TODAY
The OU high school softball tournament begins Thursday and runs through Saturday at the University of Oklahoma.
The tournament features 13 teams ranked in the top 10 of their class, including a trio of top-ranked teams. Cache is No. 1 in Class 4A, Little Axe is No. 1 in 3A and Red Oak in Class B.
Thursday features six matchups featuring top 10 teams, including Class 5A No. 4 Chickasha vs. 6A No. 9 Westmoore at 3:45 p.m., 5A No. 3 Carl Albert vs. No. 3 Yukon at 5:30 and Little Axe vs. 3A No. 8 Washington, also at 5:30.
Other highly ranked teams taking part include Class 4A No. 5 Purcell, No. 9 Hilldale, No. 10 Poteau, Class 2A No. 8 Wayne and Class B No. 9 Maud.
BY SCOTT WRIGHT AND RYAN ABER