Kamberlyn Lamer is the top-ranked women’s heptathlete in the NAIA, but she won’t be competing for a national championship at the NAIA Track and Field Championships next week in Gulf Shores, Alabama.
The Dakota Wesleyan University senior qualified for the national meet during the season, but an email error caused first-year head coach Zach Lurz -- who announced his resignation effective June 30 in April -- to miss Tuesday’s four-hour registration window for events such as heptathlon, decathlon and marathon. Individual events received a 48-hour registration period.
“I just broke down and cried,” Lamer said. “I was overwhelmed with being upset and sad and thinking about all the hard work I put in this season. It was just really hard to swallow the idea that I couldn’t compete.”
DWU adopted a new email spam filter in April and the NAIA registration link was sent to Lurz’s spam folder, according to DWU President Amy Novak. Employees are given notice by the filter about potential spam four hours after the email arrives and they are responsible for confirming those emails as spam.
Novak also stated Lurz allegedly received a file for registration rules for the national meet on May 6, but he did not confirm or deny that it was spam and after 48 hours the email is no longer available. Lurz waited for the registration link to arrive Tuesday, but at 8 p.m., he realized the link went to his spam folder and the registration window had closed.
When reached by The Daily Republic Friday, Lurz declined to comment on the situation, saying it was the request of DWU’s administration. DWU Athletic Director Jon Hart also directed questions to Novak.
“This was a tragic situation, in part related to our technology and a new system we put in place,” Novak said. “For all practical purposes, we had no idea that this registration was locked up in a spam filter for four hours before it was released. And that four hours, frankly, was critical for the registration process.”
Lurz and DWU immediately filed an appeal with the NAIA and the National Administrative Council of Coaches. Upon reviewing the appeal process, Novak found that the only time an appeal is permitted is due to error by the NAIA.
“They pointed to the fact that Coach Lurz had received the track and field handbook at the beginning of the year,” Novak said. “That has all the rules of track and field, and within that, it shows the dates of registration and Zach did not make note of that.”
DWU also appealed on the grounds that the athlete did not have an opportunity to petition an institutional error, but the school was denied.
Novak, who is the Great Plains Athletic Conference representative on the NAIA Council of Presidents, spoke to NAIA President and CEO Jim Carr to air her grievances.
“This is a senior student-athlete that’s ranked No. 1 in the country and will not have an opportunity to participate,” Novak said. “It’s the national association of small college athletics and touts itself as the place where we value students, (but) didn’t have the courage to respond to the situation. We are deeply disappointed.”
Lamer voiced frustration with Lurz, but like Novak, most of her ire is directed toward the NAIA.
The Hartford native captured the NAIA indoor national championship in the heptathlon this year and her season-high 5,017 points in the outdoor season is 191 points ahead of Eastern Oregon’s Paige Dodd.
“The mistakes that my coach made -- they could have fixed that,” Lamer said. “… I think that they could have made this right. I have anger toward my coach, but he did make a mistake and he is human. I think the NAIA should have backup plans for situations like this.”
Lamer will compete in the hurdles, long jump, triple jump and javelin, but she admits that it won’t be the same, as all of her focus has been dedicated toward the seven-event heptathlon.
Despite having one more outdoor season of eligibility remaining, Lamer already has her degree and accepted a job as a personal trainer and fitness specialist with Avera Power Wellness in Sioux Falls and planned to forgo her final season. Lamer said she’s not sure of what she will do next, in light of the NAIA ruling.
“I don’t really want to put that on hold,” Lamer said. “I want to pursue my job and continue on with my life. I still really want to be able to beat my goal and get that championship, but I’m not sure where I’m going to go with this now.”
NAIA Director of Championships Mike Higgins did not return calls from The Daily Republic by press time on Friday.