Kamberlyn Lamer was afraid to answer the phone.
The trepidation of another denied appeal seemed too devastating.
When she did answer, though, good news waiting on the other line. Dakota Wesleyan University President Amy Novak informed the NAIA’s top-ranked heptathlete’s last-chance appeal had been granted, deeming her eligible for this week’s Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Gulf Shores, Alabama.
The decision ends a week-long saga as Lamer’s tears of sadness and frustration turned into tears of joy when she received notice of the successful appeal.
“I didn’t know if I wanted to answer (the phone),” Lamer said. “I didn’t know if I wanted to hear another denial. When I answered, (Novak) said, ‘I’ve got some good news’ and I just broke down and started crying, because I needed this so much.”
Novak filed an appeal to the NAIA National Coordinating Committee on behalf of Lamer, and on Tuesday, granted her eligibility after an appeal was denied by the association’s National Administrative Council, as well as a request made to the games committee that runs the national meet last week.
The initial ruling came after DWU head coach Zach Lurz failed to register Lamer for the heptathlon during the allotted four-hour window on May 13.
The NCC’s decision to overturn the ruling came based on what the NAIA deemed in a statement to be “in the best interest of the student-athlete,” and with Lamer being “prohibited from competing through no fault of her own.”
“Allowing Ms. Lamer to compete is consistent with NAIA principles that place the student-athlete as the association’s top priority,” NAIA President and CEO Jim Carr said in a statement. “The NAIA is fortunate that our membership has the opportunity to review prior decisions and prioritize student-centered outcomes, as was done in this situation.”
The NAIA also stated it would contemplate whether its current registration process was in need of an update. Both Lamer and Novak previously called for change and it is still an idea Novak is willing to champion.
“The current appeals process really examines if the NAIA made an error,” Novak said. “In the absence of an alternative process, there really is no due process provided within the framework that’s currently there. That was part of the case that we made in this final appeal.”
The NAIA’s decision to allow Lamer to compete in the heptathlon also allows DWU to escape a permanent black mark. While the ruling was made by the NAIA, the process was put in motion due to human error on behalf of the university and athletic department.
“Nobody was being malicious, nobody was intentional about it, but obviously it didn’t look favorably on the institution, either,” Novak said. “... Obviously we were concerned with how this reflected on our track and field program, the athletic administration and university as a whole. I am really grateful and I think it speaks to the leadership team that we had and we continued to persist in finding a way to make one final case.”
Lamer, who hails from Hartford, is the national leader in heptathlon scoring during this outdoor season, scoring a record 5,017 points at the Great Plains Athletic Conference outdoor championships on May 3. On Tuesday, she was named the NAIA Midwest Region women’s field athlete of the year, and Lamer is also seventh nationally in the long jump heading to the national meet.
She was the national champion in the pentathlon in February at the indoor national championships in Brookings, scoring 3,678 points to become DWU’s first national champion in track and field. Lamer was also named the NAIA indoor season’s field athlete of the year.
Lamer admitted attention of her situation during the last week has brought some added pressure to win, but she also says her life has returned to where it was prior to the situation.
There are no more questions as to whether she will opt not to forgo her final season of eligibility to take a job with Avera in Sioux Falls and she gets to compete for a long-desired national championship.
“I think this really opened my eyes to other opportunities,” Lamer said, “but I’m usually someone that follows with my word and I’m so extremely blessed right now.”
The women’s heptathlon begins at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday.