After controversy erupted over the Bahamas’ Shaunae Miller’s dive over the finish line to stun American Allyson Felix in the women’s 400-meter Olympic final Monday night, Long Island high school track and field coaches insisted the outrage was overblown.
“She was certainly not cheated. It’s 100 percent legal. It was a great race,” Bayport-Blue Point girls coach Vin Ungaro said. “It would have been questionable only if she impeded another runner’s progress. She was within her own lane and dove forward.”
After taking an early lead, Miller, 22, held off a late charge from Felix, 30, and, with two steps to go, sprawled across the line to win by .07 of a second.
“I thought it was crazy, but she’s entitled to do that,” Nassau girls indoor track and field coordinator Kristin Frazer said. “As athletes and coaches, we’ve been in those situations where sometimes you’re just so into the race, it’s a matter of pure exhaustion where you’re just trying to finish, or desperation where you want that win so bad.
“I don’t think she was being dirty. To me, she just looked exhausted.”
Frazer said New York State doesn’t have any rules against high school athletes diving to the finish line, as long as it doesn’t impede another runner. Although conventional wisdom says the fastest way to get to the finish line is to run through it, Frazer said she wouldn’t teach against the “dive for the line’’ technique that won the gold.
Northport boys coach Jason Strom said he doesn’t believe the upcoming season will see a lot of wannabe gold medalists sprawling across the always unforgiving track surface.
Kellenberg girls coach Marty Brown said, “How can you tell a kid not to dive at the line when they saw an Olympic champion did it? It showed her extreme desire to win. But nine times out of ten, a dive doesn’t work.”