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Originally published Tuesday, June 3, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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WIAA awards Bellarmine girl lost state championship

Anxiety dominated the conversation Sunday night at Nicole Cochran's graduation dinner, with Cochran, her parents and her coach discussing...

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Anxiety dominated the conversation Sunday night at Nicole Cochran's graduation dinner, with Cochran, her parents and her coach discussing their next move — possibly a legal one — to get her reinstated as the Class 4A state champion in the 3,200 meters.

"We were thinking we have to rally the troops," Cochran said.

The troops can stand down.

Less than 24 hours later, the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association had named Cochran, a senior at Bellarmine Prep, the official champion, reversing her disqualification for a lane violation that she did not commit.

When she heard the news Monday, Cochran said she screamed, "Are you serious?" before raising her arms and giving her coach a big hug.

"Right now, I'm just kind of relishing in the moment," Cochran said Monday night.

WIAA executive director Mike Colbrese could not remember an individual or team being reinstated as a state champion one day after the event, much less the 10 days that passed between Cochran's disqualification May 24 and Monday's decision.

Colbrese said the decision was reversed because race officials misapplied a rule by not immediately identifying which girl stepped on the inside lane line during the final turn of the sixth lap. As it turned out, that runner was a Bellarmine Prep teammate who was running next to Cochran, wore the same uniform and also had blonde hair. They even wore similar numbers, 135 and 137.

"To the untrained eye, it's pretty easy to confuse us," Cochran said.

Officials waited until the runners made the same turn on the next lap and mistakenly determined Cochran had committed the infraction.

"That's the meat of the issue," Colbrese said. "They didn't identify her at the time of the violation ... In this situation, the officials came forward to me and indicated they believed they made a mistake."

Colbrese said he reviewed all applicable state and national rules but did not use the online video of the race that caused many in the state's track-and-field community to call for Cochran's reinstatement. The video, which clearly showed Cochran did not commit the violation, was off-limits to the WIAA because national rules prohibit reviewing unauthorized video.

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Colbrese discussed the decision with WIAA executive board president Al Falkner and said that by Monday morning, "I was pretty confident which way the association should go."

The individual standings for the race were updated, with each finisher moving down one spot. There was no need to exchange medals, though, because the girls had passed their medals down right after the event. Shadle Park sophomore Andrea Nelson triggered the move by hanging the gold medal around Cochran's neck.

Cochran said she planned on calling Nelson with the news Monday.

"That was the reason it got so much attention from the press," Cochran said. "I know it wouldn't have been such an issue without it. It pretty much stemmed from her."

The team points were also adjusted, though Bellarmine Prep had already won the girls team title. But with the extra 10 points from Cochran's victory, Bellarmine Prep set a new Class 4A team record with 86.5 points, breaking Garfield's record of 82 set in 1984.

"This story has a happy ending," Bellarmine Prep coach Matt Ellis said.

Tom Wyrwich: 206-515-5653 or twyrwich@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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