Church Point's Meche disqualified after winning 400 at regional meet

LAFAYETTE – Abbeville’s Lady Wildcats and West Feliciana’s Saints claimed the overall team titles at the Class 3A, Region II Track and Field championships at UL-Lafayette’s track and field complex.

But neither of their victories wound up being the top story of the meet.

Instead, a controversial ruling in the boys’ 400-meter dash stole the spotlight on an otherwise quite day and left a Church Point standout’s dreams of a possible state championship shattered.

Church Point’s Zack Meche, the apparent runaway winner in the 400 (49.06), had his victory stripped from him when officials ruled that he had briefly ventured (“six or seven strides”) out of his lane during the race.

Second-place Johnta Hebert of Green Oaks, who finished almost a full second behind Meche, was declared the winner of the race and Meche, who entered the race with one of the state’s top times, was disqualified and his berth in next week’s state meet taken from him.

“It was like winning the national championship in football: You get the trophy, the confetti has already been dropped and then the officials come in the locker room and tell you that they forgot to throw a flag for holding on the winning touchdown. Sorry, you didn’t win,” Church Point boys’ coach Eric Cooley said afterward.

“That’s the exact same scenario.”

The controversy arose over the way the officials reached their decision.

No red flags were raised during the race, which is normal procedure in a violation. Instead, Cooley said, the official monitoring the curve in which the infraction allegedly occurred was alerted to the violation by other high school coaches and a photographer.

Louisiana High School Athletic Association rules forbid coaches from being on the infield during regional or state competition.

“You, know, if you are watching one kid take six or seven strides, who is watching the other seven kids?” Cooley said. “There were no flags. I just feel bad for the kid because he is one of the hardest workers I’ve ever been around - he’s set goals and met them each week.

“It just feels bad to have something taken away from you for something that might or might not have happened.”

Meche’s previous best time in the event was 48.63 at the district meet a week earlier. That broke a school and area best record that has stood for over 20 years.

Church Point girls’ track coach and athletic director John Craig Arceneaux appealed the ruling, but after nearly a 30-minute deliberation, the four-person jury of appeals upheld the call.

“Simply put, they stole a state championship from a kid,” said Arceneaux. “Zack has worked very hard for the last four years for this moment.

“He was going to have the best time in Class 3A. They denied a kid an opportunity to win a state championship. They’re all adults. They have to live with that.”

Meche will not miss out entirely on the state meet. The senior speedster ran the anchor leg on Church Point’s 4x400 relay team that won that event in a time of 3:26.41.

He was joined on the team by Desmond Bellard, James Bellard and Tyler Veronie.

“I had a little extra incentive in the relay,” said Meche. “I still get to go to state for that, but I would have rather it have been in the 400.”

Shondrika Boast was Church Point’s lone qualifier on the girls’ side after placing third in the 200 (26.29).

Rayne’s Jalen Williams qualified for state in the 100- and 200-meter dash. He placed second in the 100 (11.05) and third in the 200 (22.79). Lucas Daigle’s jump of 13-0 in the pole vault was good enough for third place as well.

Nia Taylor placed second in the triple jump (34-1 1/2) and will be the only Lady Wolf moving on to next week’s championships.

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