Last weekend, Blackfoot High School debate students were elated after they claimed the first place title at the 2012 State Debate tournament.
Now, however, Blackfoot must give the first place banner and trophy to another team because of a computer glitch.
Julie Hammons, the Associate Director of the Idaho High School Activities Association, said a debate coach from another school recalculated the team point totals, found an error and filed a grievance with the association. The association discovered the error was caused by the Joy of Tournaments program, a software system that calculates each school's point totals following debate rounds. None of the semifinal round points had been entered into the sweepstakes scores because of this mistake. Some schools were not affected by this glitch because the gap between scores was too wide; unfortunately, Blackfoot was in a division that was affected. The activities association decided to redistribute the awards based on the new point totals.
On Monday, the activities association told the coaches about the error. "All of the coaches were very gracious, but some were understandably disappointed," said Hammons.
Blackfoot debate coach Cherie Clawson received the heartbreaking news that Blackfoot had lost the state championship by three points to Renaissance High School, which is in Meridian. She was then faced with the difficult task of telling her team.
"They had already posted pictures with the trophy and banner on Facebook and told all their family and friends," said Clawson. "On something as important as a state championship it is hard to tell them it was a mistake, you really aren't state champions like you thought you were all weekend."
Clawson told her students that though they were not state champions, this situation gave them the opportunity to be champions in sportsmanship.
"We are always seeking truth as debaters, and the truth was found and we were lacking three points, so now how we handle this setback determines what we are really made of," Clawson said.
The team then took down the banner, packed up the trophy and sent the package to the activities association.
Clawson is disappointed in the decision of the activities association.
"Of course, the IHSAA feels very bad and offered their sincere apologies; however, it hurt kids and the overall goal of this tournament was to make decisions in a manner that benefited kids the most," she said.