A rule that lacks flexibility

If records are made to be broken, are rules made to be bent?

The obvious answer to the question is no, but should that be the answer in all cases?

What I?m referencing is a story some of you may have read about several weeks ago because it happened in southeast Iowa.

In a Class 1A district cross-country meet, Davis County?s Zachary Hougland became the school?s first-ever district cross-country champion when he out-ran the competition to lead the runners into the chute.

Naturally, Hougland?s win was followed by high-fives with the coaching staff and teammate.

As he was being congratulated, Hougland turned around and saw a competitor struggling to finish the race. The competitor from Mediapolis was about 20 meters from the finish line and his face was turning white and he was holding his chest. He looked as though he may fall at any minute. Hougland yelled at other runners to give the Mepo runner a helping hand. No one did.

Natural instinct took over for Hougland as he stopped celebrating and rushed to the aid of the struggling runner. ?I didn?t know who he was,? Hougland told reporters. ?I didn?t even know what school he was from. I just stepped in and helped him. I didn?t want him to fall.?

Hougland put his arm around the struggling runner, Garrett Hinson, and walked with him for about 15 meters and as they neared the finish line, Hougland stepped aside so Hinson could finish the race.

?I couldn?t stand seeing him (Hinson) like that,? Hougland said. ?I felt that someone should help him, so I pictured myself in his shoes.?

Hougland?s helping hand cost him dearly ? his district medal.

The Iowa High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) said the teen?s good deed violated the National Federation of State High School Association race rules. The rule specifies that if a competitor receives or gives assistance to another runner, that competitor is disqualified from the event.

Community residents were enraged and pleaded with IHSAA officials to reverse its decision ? all to no avail.

I have no problem with rules. They are needed in society. However, sometimes those rules need a little elasticity. Since when is being a Good Samaritan against the rules?

All was not lost for Hougland, though. Davis County qualified for the state meet as a team so he was able to run at state. The athlete finished in 50th place in the Class 2A run at state.

This column is being published on Black Friday, the official start to the Christmas shopping season.


Seemingly, the commercialization of Christmas is beginning earlier and earlier. Many stores had Christmas merchandise on display before Halloween. I have also seen Christmas lights shining on homes since the beginning of November.

Call me a traditionalist or whatever you would like, but refusing to give Thanksgiving its due greatly disappoints me.

Though we should be thankful and count our blessings daily, there is one day during the entire year that the nation is supposed to pause and give thanks.

That is becoming increasingly difficult because I am seeing more and more businesses open on Thanksgiving, whether it be all day or beginning at 6 p.m. I realize that the Christmas shopping season is what makes or breaks the year for many businesses. But do you really need Black Friday to become a 30- or 36-hour day? During recent years as stores have expanded their hours to include Thanksgiving Day, I have heard more and more complaints from shoppers who not only refuse to shop on Thanksgiving but go so far as boycotting stores that open on Thanksgiving during the holiday shopping season.

Along the same lines, kudos go to Jeremy Hunold, a Salem city councilman. During its November meeting, the council was discussing Christmas lights and Hunold was adamant that he did not want the lights on before or during Thanksgiving. He said he had no problem with putting up the lights, but don?t hit the switch until Nov. 27.

Final thoughts: Iowa climbed into the top four of the college football playoff rankings, meaning that if the season were to end today (this is being written before the Iowa-Nebraska football game), the Hawks would be in college football?s final four.

Despite the team?s unbeaten record and victories over two nationally-ranked teams, you get the feeling that Iowa?s ranking is about as solid as a marshmallow. Truth be told, the Hawkeyes, because they are unbeaten, are viewed as a necessary evil in the rankings by the national media. Should Iowa fall to Nebraska but win the Big Ten Championship game Dec. 5, I don?t think there is any way Iowa makes the playoff field. I hope I am proven wrong.

Whatever happens the remainder of the season, Iowa?s successful run has made this fall special.