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Sports: WHS forfeits tennis title
By Charles Swenson
The Waccamaw High boys tennis team has forfeited its state championship after the S.C. High School League ruled one of its players was ineligible. The trophy and medals will be sent to Christ Church Episcopal School in Greenville.
The Warriors beat Christ Church 4-2 in the Class A-AA final in May. Christ Church filed a complaint and the league president, Jerome Singleton, ruled the player ineligible.
Waccamaw appealed to the league’s 18-member executive committee, which upheld Singleton’s decision.
The Warriors had to forfeit their last seven matches and pay a $1,200 fine, according to principal David Hammel. “While we are disappointed with this decision, we accept the executive committee’s decision,” he said.
Not James Brown, who coached the Waccamaw boys to three previous titles.
“I don’t accept their ruling,” he said. “What they’re doing is wrong.”
Neither the school nor the league have named the player involved, but Alex Gaines, a sophomore, joined the team in mid-April. He played for the Warriors as a freshman, moved to Wilmington, N.C., then moved back.
Brown said the school “did what we thought was right.”
Singleton agreed that the violation wasn’t intentional. “They didn’t know,” he said.
But the school still violated the eligibility rule for transfers, Singleton said.
Once a complaint is received, it’s up to the school to provide the information to show a player is eligible, he said.
Hammel and Brown said the rules are “complex” and “gray.” That seemed to take Singleton by surprise.
“The membership makes the rules,” he said. “We just enforce them.”
The maximum fine for fielding an ineligible player is $2,500 and a year’s suspension.
Brown said the Waccamaw players didn’t take the decision personally. Mike Moran, who won the state A-AA singles title after playing at No. 3 singles during the regular season, told him “in the scheme of things it doesn’t really matter. They know we’re better than they are.”
This year’s title was one of 16 team and individual tennis championships the Warriors have won since 2004, Brown said. “We’ve absolutely dominated” and had no reason to pad the roster with an ineligble player, he said.
“I told our players this doesn’t change things. We always work year-round, but we have an even bigger goal next year to get back there and to do it again,” Brown said.