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Oyster Bay homecoming king sidelined by state rule

Oyster Bay High School homecoming king Francis Kalombo

Oyster Bay High School homecoming king Francis Kalombo Ngoy, a senior who immigrated from Africa four years ago, wears his crown during the homecoming game on Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014. Credit: Tara Conry

Wearing a crown atop his head, Oyster Bay High School homecoming king Francis Kalombo Ngoy smiled and waved as he rode in the school’s homecoming parade Saturday in a Mustang convertible.

The 17-year-old senior was enjoying his moment in the spotlight especially since lately he’s found himself on the sidelines.

Last season, Kalombo Ngoy was a top scorer for Oyster Bay’s boys varsity soccer team, but this year, he’s been ruled ineligible to play. The New York State Public High School Athletic Association limits high school students to playing only four consecutive seasons of a given sport with only a few exceptions.

Kalombo Ngoy, an immigrant from Africa, had to repeat the ninth grade since he was still struggling to learn English after his family immigrated to the United States four years ago.

Since he had already played four years on Oyster Bay’s varsity soccer team before the start of the 2014-2015 season, he was told he wasn’t permitted to play. Instead, he’s now an assistant coach for the team.

“It’s very different,” Kalombo Ngoy said. “I’m grateful that the school gave me that job, it’s good experience, but I miss playing with my teammates a lot.”

Today, Kalombo Ngoy said his English is much better. He’s even enrolled in a college English course, and he does hope to play soccer and run track in college although he doesn’t know how his situation will impact that dream.

“The senior year is the most important year for everyone,” he said.

He is playing on a competitive travel team outside of school, though.

Another state rule barred one of Kalombo Ngoy’s classmates, John Ottaunick, from playing on the varsity football team this season. When he was 11, Ottaunick, who was adopted from Siberia and spoke no English, was placed in the fourth grade, rather than sixth, so now at 19 years old, he is considered too old to play.

Kalombo Ngoy said he wants to work with Ottaunick to advocate for the next generation of foreign-born students, so they do not encounter the same issues.

“It’s unfair for too many people who are coming from outside the nation,” he said.

In Africa, Kalombo Ngoy said his school didn’t have traditions like homecoming. He was crowned king -- and Keva Green-Knox was named queen -- by earning the most votes from their classmates.

“It’s an honor,” he said. “I’m very thankful.”

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