Thomas Jefferson gymnastics to serve one year probation, WIAA says

The Thomas Jefferson High School gymnastics team was placed on a one-year probation following a meeting by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) executive board on March 17.

According to the WIAA and Federal Way Public Schools, the Thomas Jefferson Raiders had an athlete qualify for state and failed to participate in the competition at Sammamish High School on Feb. 23. This violated rule 25.2.5 in the WIAA Handbook, which states: “By entering participants in postseason competition, each member school certifies that, barring injury, illness, religious observance or unforeseen events, the team or individuals representing the school will participate in every level of competition through the completion of the state championship event.”

According to sources, this rule is only in place for gymnastics. All other individual postseason sports such as wrestling, swimming and diving are not affected by this rule.

“Thomas Jefferson acted with fantastic integrity and self-reported the violation. A student had qualified for the event, had a known conflict, and chose not to attend the event. Following our standard process, Thomas Jefferson’s gymnastics program, not the entire school, has a one-year violation,” WIAA Director of Communications Sean Bessette said.

However, FWPS used different diction in their statement to The Mirror, saying that the reason for missing the meet was “due to an unanticipated family obligation” and was “not intentional.”

“In this unique situation, a TJHS student who qualified to compete in the state competition was unable to compete due to unanticipated family obligations. Again, this was a very unique circumstance and not intentional. We respect the WIAA’s decision and fully understand why the student was unable to participate. Next season will continue as normal, with additional measures in place to help prevent this from occurring in the future,” according to FWPS.

Whichever the WIAA says it, the TJHS student was heartbroken and crushed that they couldn’t compete, according to sources: “The student was not aware they would be unable to compete until after they qualified,” FWPS said in a follow-up email.

The Raiders had four athletes participate state competition, with Rylee Cabang as the only gymnast to place for Thomas Jefferson at the event, taking fourth place on bars.

Thomas Jefferson and Federal Way Public Schools accepted and understand the the decision from the WIAA, according to the district. The Raiders will be on a one-year probation, but athletes will be able to qualify for next year’s state competition.

Bessette later did confirm the same verbiage in a follow up email to The Mirror: “As I previously stated, Thomas Jefferson and the Federal Way School District acted with fantastic integrity. After qualifying for the state tournament, the student had an unanticipated family obligation and could not attend the state tournament. That is the information we have which led to the self-reported violation.”