By JOHN MILLER, Associated Press
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The board that oversees Idaho high school sports won't bar a female golf champion from playing with the boys' team if not enough girls turn out to form a team of their own.
A proposed rule change that would have blocked Sierra Harr's participation emerged over the summer at the Idaho High School Activities Association after she helped the Castleford High School boys win the 2012 championship for Idaho's smallest schools.
Harr, a 16-year-old junior, says the debate came up after rival coaches complained.
Association executive director John Billetz said Wednesday there was just a single vote in favor of the rule change at a meeting in Coeur d'Alene. Billetz says the 11 board members voting in the majority concluded Harr's situation happens so infrequently, it didn't merit a big change.
"Nothing has changed, everything is back to the way it was," he said.
If enough girls turn out to form a Castleford girls' team in 2013, Harr will play with them.
If not, she can still compete for a spot on the boys' team.
Taking a brief break in between classes Wednesday, Harr told The Associated Press that a potentially difficult situation has come to a satisfying conclusion — not just for her, but for other girls in Idaho.
"If you believe in something ... you should stand up for it," she said.
Harr says the process has been a learning experience and that the resolution will allow her to focus on golf. Her next tournament is this weekend in Sun Valley.
Two years ago, in Harr's freshman season at Castleford, she easily won the individual girl's state title for schools with fewer than 160 students, taking the championship by 6 strokes.
In 2012, however, only three girls turned out for Castleford's girls' squad, one too few to field a formal team.
Rather than play as an individual in female competitions, Harr won the Idaho High School Activities Association's permission to play with Castleford's boys' team — provided she qualified every week.
Hitting from the same tees as the boys, she finished in seventh at the state tournament in May, helping her 2A school to the boys' team title.
Harr said some opposing coaches then raised concerns, saying she should continue to play with the girls as an individual, rather than being allowed to play for the boys' team.
After the activities association board voted to consider the proposed change in July, Harr, who is the No. 3 ranked female golfer in Idaho with a 2.2 handicap, openly campaigned against it.
"The mental mind set a golfer gains from golfing for a team cannot be replaced," she wrote to the association.
Before the vote, lawyers who work on discrimination cases in sports also told the AP that federal Title IX provisions would likely make the proposed rule change illegal because barring Harr from the boys' team, in the absence of a girls' squad, would deny her access to equal educational opportunities.
Billetz, the association director, said there was no discussion among board members about Title IX before their decision.
"The bottom line was, this is something that was just like an anomaly," he said.