Kansas University junior Andrea Geubelle is looking ahead to the Olympic trials in Eugene, Ore. (June 23 preliminaries, June 25 finals), where she has a realistic chance to leap long enough to earn the chance to represent the United States in London (Aug. 3 preliminaries, Aug. 5 finals).
Southern Miss track coach Kevin Stephen, the man who filed the protest that resulted in Geubelle getting bumped from first to third in the NCAA outdoor track and field championships Saturday in Des Moines, said he’ll be among those rooting for her to make it.
“I’m amazed every time I see her jump,” Stephen said by phone late Sunday night. “I can’t believe that much power comes out of that small a frame. She’s amazingly talented. I think that American record is breakable. I would love to see her get six good attempts at breaking that record out there in Eugene.”
Stephen said he had “no malicious intent” when he filed the protest that Geubelle had fouled on her fourth attempt. He also said he did not wait until after the meet was over. (Rules allow for a protest to be filed up to 30 minutes after an event ends.)
Stephen said he was sitting in the stands, even with the point where the white (fair) and orange (foul) lines meet on the runway.
“The instant she jumped, I have no question in my mind it’s a foul,” Stephen said. “None. I’m thinking, ‘What recourse do I have to protect my athlete?’ After thinking about it for a few seconds, I decided to file a protest to go ahead and look at it. Even from the distance where I was, there was no question in my mind. She fouled by about a centimeter, which in foul terms is a mile.”
Stephen explained the timing of his protest.
“The way the championship is set up there is an actual protest tent,” he said. “You have 30 minutes to file a protest, but in this particular instance, I didn’t want to wait. I hurried over there. It took about seven minutes from the time she jumped to the time I filed the protest. What I wanted was an instant review. (A meet official) took my cell phone number and said he would call. I missed the fifth jump and before the sixth, I was sitting there waiting on a response.”
At that point, Stephen said, he found Kansas coach Stanley Redwine and told him, “I don’t want you to be blind-sided, and I want to let you know I filed a protest.”
Geubelle popped what she thought was the winning jump on her fourth attempt and fouled on her final two jumps. As soon as Southern Miss’ jumper, Ganna Demydova of the Ukraine, fouled on her final jump, Geubelle, standing alongside the runway, began pacing back and forth excitedly as a squatting photographer kept pace with her, snapping every show of emotion.
“While this was all going on, a (meet official) comes over and tells us, ‘Your protest has been upheld.’ Stanley was right next to me,” Stephen said. “He knew well before his jumper was ushered to the Mixed Zone (where interviews take place). When all is said and done, we are counterparts. I wanted to make sure he heard about the protest from me.”
Stephen said he has lobbied with track officials for years to have a system in place in which fouls can be reviewed instantly, the way photo finishes are in sprint events. He said he has been told that would be too expensive.
As for Demydova, Stephen said she found out she had won after the competition was over.
“She was sitting on one of the benches of the bleachers, gathering her stuff together,” Stephen said. “All I remember is seeing her reaction two or three minutes after the competition was over.”
Geubelle, thinking she had won, talked to reporters for at least 15 minutes about the thrill of winning the outdoor championship before a meet official pulled her away into an adjoining room, where KU’s track and field media relations representative Brad Gilbert and associate athletics director Jim Marchiony broke the news to her.
Given a chance to explain why he did not get the message to Geubelle before she did interviews, Redwine declined to be interviewed for this story. However, late Monday night, he issued a statement.
"I want to reiterate what I said on Saturday," Redwine said. "No one from the KU track and field staff knew that Andrea's jump was being protested until after the event was finished."
Until being interviewed for this story, Stephen said he had no idea that Geubelle made it all the way through interviews before hearing that she had not won the event and instead finished third.
“Oh no, that makes it worse,” Stephen said. “... When all is said and done, my job is to look out for my athlete. That’s what I was doing. There was no malicious intent.”
Kansas finished tied for fourth in the women’s NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championship and 27 of its 28 points were produced by athletes who have at least one more year of eligibility.