North Attleboro loses track title when coach reports error
He is a teacher of history, not math, but something wasn't adding up for Derek Herber.
On Sunday afternoon, Herber coached the North Attleboro boys' track and field team to what he thought was a second consecutive Division 2 outdoor championship, in what he had declared to be his final season as coach.
The win was clinched in the meet's final event, the 4 x 400 relay, in which his Rocketeers earned 1 point to edge Central Catholic, 69-68.
But when Herber entered the results into his record book Monday morning, the scores added to a total that fell short of 69. He knew something was off.
"For our individual scoring, I try to keep up with it and try to keep the kids [aware of] where they are individually for scoring," Herber said. "We were looking at it, and I did all the math, and I said, 'Aww.' "
After crunching the numbers several more times with his assistant coach and never reaching 69, Herber picked up the phone and called the MIAA to alert officials of a potential mistake.
According to Herber, the error was a clerical one, made as the finish-line crew worked to decipher a muddled photo finish in the finals of the 110-meter hurdles. North Attleboro junior Nathan Adeyemi finished seventh, but in the results, he was awarded the point total (8) for a second-place finish. Meanwhile, Salem senior Jerry Canada finished second and was awarded the point total (2) for a seventh-place finish.
When the final team scores were adjusted to account for the revised results, North Attleboro was no longer champion. The 6-point loss knocked the Rocketeers down to 63 points, placing them third behind Central Catholic and Woburn (65).
Once the mistake was confirmed, Herber reached out to Central Catholic to apologize for the mixup and told the Raiders they would soon be receiving the trophy that was rightfully theirs.
The corrected results came at the expense of Herber's seniors, a group of which he said years ago that if he were to ever step away from coaching, he'd want to end it with the Class of 2014.
But title or no title, Herber said, it doesn't take away from what his Rocketeers accomplished this season.
"I feel bad for my seniors," Herber said. "I think they truly had an opportunity to win, but I think they also understand they wanted to do it in the right way. The right team won. [Central Catholic] had the most points.
"I think upon hearing it they all kind of said it doesn't change anything that they've done this season. Even thinking that they won — even for that one fleeting moment that we thought we won — they believed that they accomplished a lot of things, and they did. All year they've accomplished a lot of things for us, and they still had a great season despite this setback."