Best of times and worst of times for two teen athletes

In this photo taken Thursday, Sept. 6, 2012, Sierra Harr, who helped the Castleford High School boy's golf team …First, the good news: 12-year-old Katylynn Welch is an excellent runner. How excellent? At an XTERRA half-marathon event in Waco, TX on August 18, she won the women's field and placed 11th overall. True, according to Outside Magazine's Adventure blog, trail running gives female athletes more opportunities to truly compete with men than most sports – but Outside's Katie Arnold notes that it's also a sport in which top runners may not peak until their thirties or even forties. Top runners like, say, Claudia Spooner, a 42-year-old and triathlete who typically dusts her competition in XTERRA events, and who finished two minutes behind Welch last month. (Welch, modestly: "I think she was sick that day.")

Finishing behind Spooner, meanwhile, was another mighty mite – Welch's sister, Heather. Their father, Rodney, hinted that Heather's the real threat, since her main goal is to keep up with her older sister, who has finished the Houston Marathon in well under four hours. Unfortunately, Katylynn's results were disqualified; entrants under 12 years old don't officially count. (She noted with an implied eye-roll that "my dad told me a seven-year-old blind girl ran it.")

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Not everyone is so much impressed as worried; other runners apparently cautioned Rodney about the damage so much running could do to growing bones and muscles. So, Dad took the girls to a local sports doctor, who gave them the all-clear to keep running thanks to their…laziness? Rodney explained to Outside, "He said it was fine, especially because they're not doing any running during the week. It's hard to get them to do anything. It's weird: They have the craziest talent, but no drive to train."

Katylynn likes to race, though, and managed to parlay her win into a trip to the XTERRA Trail Run National Championship on September 23. "I told her if she took first place, she'd get to go to Utah. And the little turd pulled it off," Rodney said. Katylynn didn't have any predictions for how she'd do there, but she does know she's "trying out for the track team this year."

Katylynn had better hope state officials in Texas don't have the same issues with girl competitors going head-to-head with boys that they apparently do in Idaho. Over on Yahoo!'s Prep Rally blog, Jonathan Wall writes up the sad story of Sierra Harr, 16, is set to get kicked off the Castleford High boys' golf team – despite helping them to a state championship last year.

Or…perhaps because of it. Harr, currently ranked 3rd in Idaho in her age group, began high school on the girls' golf team, and won a championship that year. But when she returned as a sophomore, she found that the girls' team was being shut down thanks to a paucity of players. Offered the chance to enter tourneys as an individual, Harr elected instead to throw her hat in with the school's boys' team; the Idaho High School Athletic Association allowed this, as long as Harr qualified every week, which was no problem for the 2.2 handicapper. She and Castleford locked up another championship in 2012, too.

Opposing coaches weren't having it, however, and complained to the IHSAA about the presence of a girl in the tournaments. According to AP, the IHSAA isn't saying one way or the other whether it's instituted a rule keeping Harr off the boys' squad, and wants to allow Harr to play high-school golf "while preserving fairness for others." If Harr is hitting from the men's tee and still beating the dudes, where's the unfairness?

In a letter to the IHSAA, Harr also seemed to wonder what the problem was – since neither her teammates nor her opponents seemed to have an issue with her: "The boys on my team treated me as an equal, and if any of my competitors disapproved of my golfing with the boys, they were gracious enough to keep their opinions to themselves and treated me with respect. The only negative reactions I received were from a few opposing coaches." (When I umped Little League, I had a similar experience. Other umps and the players couldn't have cared less; it was the parents who hassled me.)

And nobody had an issue with Annie Park whipping the boys' field in Long Island earlier this year by nine strokes – including the deposed champ, Alex Lowe, who told Newsday that "She must be one of the best female golfers in the world." Can't the IHSAA just tell the coaches who whined that they should field better teams if they feel that strongly about it?

Copyright © 2012 Yahoo Inc.

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