Wisconsin high school track athlete ruled ineligible because parents live in Ghana

CAMPBELLSPORT, Wisconsin — The governing body of Wisconsin high school athletics deemed a transfer track star ineligible for Campbellsport High School varsity events because his parents live 5,000 miles away.

Senior Josh Onwunili, a dominant athlete from Ghana, has said he will appeal the decision by the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association, according to WTMJ-TV in Milwaukee.

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Onwunili attended Campbellsport as a freshman but left the next two years to go to Ghana with his parents, who are missionaries. He returned to Campbellsport for his senior year to compete in sport and attend school to prepare for college athletics and academics, WTMJ reported.

He is one of the fastest runners in Wisconsin history, and excels in the classroom as well with a 3.7 GPA, WBBM-TV reported. He ran one of the fastest 100-meter sprints in state history at his last meet.

The WIAA handbook says that “a full-time student is eligible for varsity interscholastic competition only at the school within whose attendance boundaries his/her parents reside.”

His mother and father still own their house in the district, and Onwunili lives with his aunt and uncle — but that’s not good enough for the WIAA, who stood steadfastly by its decision to disallow him to compete in the upcoming regional and state championships, according to WBBM.

Onwunili’s mother flew from Ghana to Chicago’s O’Hare International to support her son, who met her at the gate. Derek Toshner, Onwunili’s coach, said even though she’s moving back to town since his father has to stay in Ghana, Onwunili remains ineligible. The WIAA requires both parents to live in the area for the athlete to compete for a full season, WTMJ reported.

Three Wisconsin lawmakers sent a letter of “deep concern” to the WIAA board on Wednesday, insisting that it reconsider the ruling to bar a student-athlete from state competition because of a “residency technicality.” The letter continued, “The unique circumstances surrounding Josh’s residency should not overshadow his incredible talent and dedication to the sport,” according to WITI in Milwaukee.

Toshner said the transfer rule is to prevent “the stacking of teams” — allowing coaches to recruit dominant athletes from out of their districts. This case is nothing of the sort, he said.

The three lawmakers said the decision “appears to be an obstacle to fairness” in this case.

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