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The Preps : Runner’s Eligibility Is Questioned : Age of Santa Ana Valley’s Rodriguez Under Investigation

Times Staff Writer

Allegations that a member of the Santa Ana Valley High School boys’ cross-country team might be ineligible because of his age are being investigated by the Southern Section, officials said Monday.

Southern Section officials would not disclose who made the allegations against Jimmy Rodriguez, one of Orange County’s top runners last year who recorded the fastest time at the Woodbridge Invitational meet Saturday.

But two Century League coaches--Jeff Davis of Santa Ana and Dave White of Villa Park--said they believe Rodriguez is ineligible.

“Most of us (Century League coaches) think he’s too old to be competing,” White said.

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Southern Section rule 201 states: “No student whose 19th birthday is attained prior to Sept. 1 shall participate or practice on any team . . . “

Rodriguez, interviewed at his home Monday afternoon, said he is 18, and offered a birth certificate from Mexico as proof.

George Payan, Santa Ana Valley coach, said Monday that the allegations are unfounded. He said the confusion probably stems from last cross-country season, when Payan entered Rodriguez in senior-class races to give him better competition.

“Jimmy is 18 years old,” Payan said. “He was a junior last year. He’s a senior this year.

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“Why would I do this? I have (much) to lose. My job, my coaching position, everything . . . To me it’s not worth it.”

But Davis said many other coaches have told him they believe Rodriguez to be 19, if not older.

“A number of coaches approached me last Saturday at the Woodbridge meet about Jimmy,” Davis said. “Coaches were coming up to me and saying, ‘Rodriguez is (competing)? You’ve got to be kidding.’ ”

White said he had printed results of the 1986 Century League cross-country meet--hosted by White at Villa Park--which stated that Rodriguez was a junior at the time.

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“George filled out the (entry) forms himself,” White said.

Judy Duesterberg, Santa Ana Valley principal, said she is investigating the matter. Duesterberg said that the school’s computer, used for class registration, states that Rodriguez’s birth date is April 5, 1970--which would make him 18.

But Duesterberg said that another set of school records show Rodriguez’s birth date as April 5, 1969.

“I have a call into the parents, I want the birthday verified by the parents before I do anything,” Duesterberg said. “As soon as the parent calls me, I’ll require him or her to come in and show me documents (to prove his age).”

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