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Coach reports own error, strips his team's title

A Massachusetts high school track and field coach took away a district championship from his own team after realizing a scoring error was made at this weekend’s meet.

After North Attleborough High was awarded the boys’ track and field Division 2 Eastern Mass. title on Sunday, Red Rocketeers coach Derek Herber on Monday noticed a discrepancy in the scoring of the 110-meter hurdle event. Herber notified race director Rick Kates of the error.

As originally tabulated, North Attleborough edged second-place Central Catholic by one point, with the Red Rocketeers tallying 69 points to the Raiders’ 68. After adjusting with the correct scores, North Attleborough placed third with 63 points behind both Central Catholic (68) and Woburn (65).

It would have marked the Red Rocketeers’ second straight district title.

Central Catholic coach Mike Leal was notified of his team’s championship Monday afternoon.

“I was shocked,” Leal told ESPN Boston Monday afternoon. “We had finals today, so we were already out of school, but I couldn’t wait to tell my coaching staff and my captains.”

The announcement marked quite a turnaround in the spirits of Leal’s athletes. With top-two finishers in five events, the Raiders felt good about their chance in taking home the title, only to fall a single point short. Or so they thought.

“It’s been quite a rollercoaster ride the last twelve hours,” Leal said. “To come so close in a meet like that can really deflate a team, especially because we’d had such a good day. It’s easier if you lose by 15 points, but to compete like that and lose by one point is really tough.”

Leal was contacted by Herber, North Attleborough’s athletic director and the race director on Monday, to elucidate the error. He remained thankful for Herber’s act of humility and for immediately bringing it to the attention of the organizers.

“It speaks volumes to his integrity,” Leal said of Herber. “I don’t know him that well, but I see him a couple times a year at the meets. I look forward to shaking his hand again and to wish them the best of luck in the future. I’m sure it’s tough for their kids.

“I don’t want to say that other coaches wouldn’t do the same thing -- I’d like to think that we’d all do the same thing -- but he actually stepped forward and did it. He should be commended for it.”

Central Catholic is holding a gathering on Friday to honor the team’s individual achievements throughout the year.

“Now, we’ll have something more to celebrate now,” Leal said.