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COLUMBUS, Texas -- An act of faith hascost anarea track team a win and a chanceto advance to the state championships.

This past weekend, the Columbus High School Mighty Cardinals had just won a boys relay race when a runner s final gesture got them disqualified.

As he was crossing the finish line, Derrick Hayes pointed up to the sky. His father believes he was giving thanks in a gesture to God.

It was a reaction, father KC Hayes said. I mean you re brought up your whole life that God gives you good things, you re blessed.

Columbus ISD Superintendent Robert O Connor said the team had won the race by seven yards. It was their fastest race of the year.

Though O Connor cannot say why the student pointed, he says it was against the rules that govern high school sports. The rules state there can be no excessive act of celebration, which includes raising the hands.

I don t think that the situation was technically a terrible scenario as far as his action, but the action did violate the context of the rule, Supt. O Connor said.

But critics, including the runner s father, see it as aviolation of religious freedom. Some of them have even complained to the state, which does not appear to be budging.

You cross a finish line and you ve accomplished a goal and within seconds it s gone, KC Hayes said. To see four kids, you know, what does that tell them about the rest of their lives? You re going to do what s right, work extra hard, and have it ripped away from you?

It has proven to be a difficult lesson for a team which showed how well it can win. It must now show how well it can handle loss.

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