A story behind the O’Donnell story

Posted by Staff Writer Eric Branch:
I began writing this story on Analy high jumper Kellan O’Donnell not realizing the reporting of the story would cause him to ditch his unique jumping style.
But after our staff photographer, Crista Jeremiason, shot video of O’Donnell’s front-flip jump, I had the video forwarded to Hal Harkness, the CIF/National Federation Cross Country and Track & Field Rules Interpreter.
I wanted to get Harkness’ expert opinion because there has been debate this season about whether O’Donnell’s jump is legal. I wanted to answer that question as best as possible in the story.
I expected for Harkness to say it was a tough judgment call. As it turns out, Harkness’ response didn’t leave room for much debate. He declared the jump illegal.
Harkness’ e-mail was forwarded to Analy athletic director Joe Ellwood. A day later, O’Donnell has scrapped his front-flip and had returned to the traditional Fosbury Flop during practice Tuesday.
It’s funny. I didn’t initially feel badly about the situation. I figured if a Grand Poobah such as Harkness declared it illegal, another official would do the same during the postseason. At least O’Donnell could move on and start practicing the Fosbury.
But a few people — OK, my wife was one of them — said I was a jerk (she was half-serious, I think) and said it was a real shame that I might have ruined O’Donnell’s season.
OK, I understood I was doing my job and, as stated, I thought Harkness’ ruling was probably a blessing in diguise for O’Donnell.
Still, O’Donnell is so nice and personable that I felt compelled to call and explain the situation to him this week.
He understood. No worries. No big deal. He was fine.
Now, if only my wife was doing as well as Kellan.