Reigning Section 1 gymnastics all-around champion Alexa Calandra of Suffern will not get a chance to defend her title at Thursday's sectional meet.
Calandra was notified Tuesday that her petition to compete was denied by Section 1.
Calandra, a freshman, missed one early-season meet because of ankle injuries but competed in five varsity meets throughout the season.
According to the Section 1 gymnastics booklet, Calandra was eligible to compete at divisionals.
However, an illness forced Calandra to miss divisionals. Calandra was then notified that she needed six meets to compete at sectionals.
"I competed at my five meets that I was told that I had to compete at," Calandra said. "Right before I went to divisionals, I got really sick. I got a doctor's note. Everyone thought it was fine. Then it came up that we needed six meets, but we were never told that (before)."
Section 1 director Jen Simmons said the state handbook is clear on the eligibility requirements.
"Alexa did not meet the New York state guideline of eligibility by competing in the minimum number of contests required of all student-athletes," said Simmons, explaining why the petition was denied. "I do not have the authority to set aside this rule."
Page 19 of the Section 1 gymnastics booklet states, "Any gymnast who, because of injury, is unable to continue competition at the divisional tournament, has been disqualified by a medical authority, and has previously competed at the Section 1 gymnastics tournament or the New York State Public High School Athletic Association gymnastics tournament, may petition the Section 1 office for approval to compete at the Section 1 gymnastics tournament."
Jamie Winkler, who coaches Nyack/Pelham/Clarkstown and Tappan Zee, and who also has been Calandra's coach since she was 5 years old, said she thought Calandra had done what was necessary to compete at sectionals.
"Instead of giving the athlete the benefit of the doubt and helping the athlete, the people in charge of Section 1 athletics chose to penalize the athlete," Winkler said. "It shows me that they don't care about the athlete. At all. I'm embarrassed to be coaching in Section 1 athletics because of what they've done. If there's a technicality, it should go to the athlete."
Suffern coach Lisa Hansell said she was shocked the petition was denied.
"Her heart is in gymnastics," Hansell said. "This is a Level-10 kid who practices seven days a week. This kid could be a state champion."