The only thing that kept Discovery Canyon High School from winning a state championship in boys' swimming and diving last week was a swimsuit logo that was a little too big.
A Discovery Canyon athlete competed in a swimsuit whose logo violated a national rule, prompting Colorado High School Activities Association officials to disqualify the Thunder's 400-yard freestyle relay team, costing the school a certain state championship.
The state's high school sports governing body says the Discovery Canyon team had chances to prevent the error and didn't.
Bert Borgmann, an assistant CHSAA commissioner, said that it is "the coaches' responsibility to ensure that each competitor is attired legally." He added that a coaches meeting was held before the state meet and officials told coaches to bring in any swimmer who might have an illegal suit.
Four swimmers from other schools brought their suits in and were told to change because they were illegal, Borgmann said. But Discovery Canyon did not bring a swimmer to have his suit checked, he added.
After that, the rule requires no additional warnings, Borgmann said.
Before the final race of the state meet May 19, the Thunder led 194-174 over Windsor.
The Discovery Canyon swimmers and coaches were limited to watching the final race from a pool deck at Air Force Academy, as they had to stick around for the awards ceremony. Windsor needed only a fourth-place showing to win the team title with 202 points.
If the Thunder had competed in the relay and finished no worse than eighth, they would have received 22 points to finish with 216 in the final standings, which would have won the title. Discovery Canyon's previous best state finish was fourth, in 2016.
The name of the Discovery Canyon swimmer who violated the swimming rule has not been publicly released.
Discovery Canyon coach Dave Burgess called the disqualification "unfortunate" shortly after the meet Saturday and has declined requests by The Gazette to further discuss what happened. The school's athletic director, Ron Sukle, issued a statement Friday, saying, "We understand and accept the consequences."
"Regardless of this ruling and the consequences, we are very proud of our swim team and our coach," Sukle said.
CHSAA officials say a Discovery Canyon swimmer wore a tech suit in the relay's prelims featuring an Arena brand logo nearly twice the size that is permitted - violating the National Federation of High School Association's rule on the dimension of swimsuit logos. Suits, officials say, cannot have logos exceeding 2 1/4-inch wide and 1-inch tall.
Discovery Canyon clocked in the relay's top prelim time of 3:14.78, which would've been fast enough for third in the finals. Mullen won it in 3:10.64.
Officials said they told Discovery Canyon on May 18 - the first day of the state meet - that the relay team was disqualified from the final race because of the logo.
However, officials said the Thunder were informed again May 19 that they had been removed from the 400 freestyle relay. Discovery Canyon was under the impression it was going to be allowed to race, pointing to the final race sheet that listed the Thunder as a competitor, officials said.
CHSAA officials blamed "a communication error" between the referee and scoring officials for mistakenly placing Discovery Canyon in the relay race.
The swimmer's suit is believed to have been purchased from an overseas company, which typically doesn't follow the NFHSA's logo rule. Such suits "carry a larger logo, which is very large and quite visible to the eye that it is not legal," Borgmann said.
Borgmann said a referee spotted the illegal suit and made a report. He added that the referee did not have the swimmer take off his suit to determine the logo was too big.
"They didn't have to measure anything else," Borgmann said in an interview. "They knew from that particular one."
A request by The Gazette to talk to the referee was not granted.
Coach Burgess, in his fourth year at the helm, protested the disqualification but officials stood by their decision.
Burgess's protest, however, was not to overturn the clothing infraction. That decision was final May 18, officials said. He was protesting that the team was on the race sheet and that indicated that his team could participate in the race.
CHSAA officials say the national guideline on logos helps keep the sport competitive and not focused on the visibility of brand names.
The (NFHSA) swim rules are strict on the design of swimsuits and how they are constructed so that they are not overly buoyant," Borgmann said.
In the Rio 2016 Olympics, brand logos were noticeably bigger - thanks to a rule that allowed sponsors to enlarge their logo to 30-square centimeters from 20. It allowed non-sponsors of the Olympics to become more visible than ever.
Borgmann said the NFHSA rule applies to all brands, not just Arena - which manufactured the suit that disqualified Discovery Canyon. The NFHSA and CHSAA do not have an official sponsor, Borgmann said.
Borgmann also said the logo rule is broken and infractions are enforced "more than officials would like to have to."
Discovery Canyon finished with one individual state winner - in Brendan Byrnes, who won the Class 4A diving title - to go along with six other podium finishes in the top eight.