(Robin) Laird walked back to the top of the runway, gained her composure, then took off again. This time everything was in sync. She planted the pole, lifted herself into the air and soared easily over the bar to give her team a 66-61 victory. While half the crowd cheered and the other half groaned, Monrovia coach Mike Knowles reacted by pointing to his wrist and gesturing toward Laird, who was wearing a thin, colorful string bracelet.
"This is my 30th year coaching track," Knowles said a few days later. "I know a lot of rules and regulations."
The rule in this case -- Section 3, Article 3 of the National Federation of State High School Associations -- is clear: "Jewelry shall not be worn by contestants." So is the penalty, and in the time it takes to read "the competitor is disqualified from the event," South Pasadena's win was transformed into a 65-62 victory for Monrovia.
South Pasadena coach P.J. Hernandez was dumbfounded.
"I said, 'Coach [Knowles], you really want it to come down to this?' " Hernandez recalled.
When Laird was informed that she had been disqualified because of her bracelet, she burst into tears.
"It wasn't so much that I had been disqualified, personally," Laird said. "It was that I had just lost the league championship that my coaches and teammates had worked so hard for ... I had just lost it with this little piece of string on my wrist."
When it comes to stories about technicalities deciding outcomes, this one ranks right up there.