From Lane One, #8: #FreeGarrett, A few swear words caused a frivolous DQ at the Michigan HS XC Championships. It's not the first silly DQ, and it won't be the last. by Matt Wisner, for RunBlogRun


LBGC57XJQJFQDI5NR2NUOPKZHE.jpegGarrett Winter (#523), photo courtesy of Mary Lewandoswki,

Matt Wisner wrote about the story of Garrett Winter, who became famous for fifteen minutes over for being overly enthusiastic after a cross country race state championship where he improved by 22 seconds and used an expletive to express his utter amasement about his result. Matt thinks that perhaps Garrett was given the wrong message.

From Lane One #8


A few swear words caused a frivolous DQ at the Michigan HS XC Championships. It's not the first silly DQ, and it won't be the last.

By Matt Wisner

Just one day short of the four year anniversary of Shalane Flanagan's iconic "fuck yeah" celebration as she became the first American woman to win the NYC Marathon in 50 years, Garrett Winter, a Michigan high school cross country runner, was disqualified for a nearly identical celebration after running a surprise 22 second PR to get second place at his state meet.

According to his father, Garrett yelled "Holy fucking shit! Let's go!" Garrett's father told me that Garrett "continued to stay at the finish line to congratulate the other kids behind him until his brother crossed the finish line in 25th. He gave the third-place kid who was right behind him a big hug and they congratulated each other." He continued, "All of the top state runners in the division were upset and supported him."

Whoever DQed Garrett Winter may be the cross country equivalent of a DMV employee: very unhappy to be doing what they're doing and willing--even enthusiastic--to take it out on somebody else. (I'm still convinced I failed my driver's test because of the bad mood of Ms. Rhonda from the Gettysburg, PA DMV. I also crashed into a traffic cone, but she was very, very cranky.)

Of course, the DQ should have never happened. Garrett cheered for himself and never belittled anybody else's performances. He didn't do anything unsportsmanlike. But the rule he supposedly violated doesn't explicitly deal with unsportsmanlike behavior. NFSH's Article 2, rule 4-6 says, "Unacceptable conduct by a competitor includes, but is not limited to, willful failure to follow the directions of a meet official, using profanity that is not directed at someone or any action which could bring discredit to the individual of his or her school." It's a stupid rule. It's antiquated. It grants the authority to discern between acceptable and unacceptable behavior to individual meet officials, which means the rule can be applied inconsistently between different states and athletes. The rule's got to go.

Parchment High School's Athletic Director Brennan Davis agrees. "I think all rules should be reviewed for every sport every year, especially after something like this happens," he told me over text. "Garrett is apologetic for his actions and takes full responsibility. People make mistakes, and unfortunately there are consequences."

Here's my next problem with Garrett's situation: Almost everybody around him--the meet officials, his athletic director, his coach, the media--has responded to the situation in a way that has encouraged Garrett to be apologetic, regretful. "Garrett feels bad for his actions," "Garrett says it'll never happen again," etc. But Garrett didn't do anything wrong. A teenager saying fuck isn't the end of the world. It doesn't suggest anything about his moral standards. Maybe it's slightly impolite, but it's totally warranted. The kid did something he didn't think he could, and, in my opinion, his instinctual response matched the scale of his accomplishment.

Garrett ran out of his mind. And when you run out of your mind, you can't really control your reaction. Your subconscious takes control. It's a special thing, sacred even. Sometimes this sport really, really sucks. But the feeling you get when you do something incredible--something you didn't think you were capable of--might make it all worth it.

For example, ever since I was a senior in high school, I wanted to break 1:50 in the 800. And when I finally did it for the first time outdoors (my sophomore year at Duke), I went way under. I ran 1:48.04. I just wanted to be a solid 1:49 guy. I didn't think I was capable of 1:48 at the time, especially not 1:48 flat. I yelled. I jumped up and down. I hugged the people I beat even though they probably didn't want to be hugged. I was really sweaty but I gave my coach a big hug even though he was wearing a suit. And then my legs were too tired to stand. I had to sit down on the warm track for a bit. Minutes later, I still hadn't really realized what I'd done.

So while you do have to take responsibility for your actions, it doesn't mean you have to apologize. Garrett didn't do anything wrong, and I hope he doesn't feel bad. But given all the statements he's issued on his private Instagram, I think he does feel bad. And to me, that's a shame.

Garrett's DQ was wrong, and it's silly, and it might feel like the world to him right now, but like everything else, everybody will soon forget. There's a long history of frivolous DQs, and high school and college boys always seem to react the same way to them: They hashtag. I remember #FreeHepp in the 2018 ACC 800 prelim in Miami when the favorite, Robert Heppensetall, passed on the inside without any contact and then didn't get to compete in the final. (He won the very next ACC 800 final--you can see me getting dusted in the photo--and posted this photo to Instagram with the caption, "Revenge Season," gesturing to the meet officials' poor call.) Something similar happened to my teammate Reed Brown in last year's NCAA 1500 prelim when he passed BYU's Talem Franco on the inside without contact. That one ended in #FreeReed. Now we have #FreeGarrett.

A bunch of high school boys in the comment section of Garrett's apologetic Instagram post are calling him the people's champ. I think they're right. I want Garrett to believe it too.

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