Catoctin High School track star disqualified from race for celebrating

It was a disqualification in Hagerstown that’s been the talk of the running world this week.

Last Saturday, Catoctin High School standout Brody Buffington wrapped up the 300-meter regional championship at Hagerstown Community College.

The other two racers in the heat were both teammates.

Video appears to show Buffington raising his hands above his head, looking at some friends inside the track, and crossing the finish line. 

Buffington is drawing Division 1 track attention and is used to finishing first. He’s not used to what happened next.

He was disqualified.

"I’ve been around track and field my whole life, and I’ve never seen a kid [disqualified] for celebrating," said Andy Mason, the sports editor for the Herald-Mail newspaper who was covering the event.

Mason filmed the end of the race.  Over 1.6 million people have seen Mason’s tweet with video of the incident. Another angle obtained by FOX 5 taken by Layne Stull, a friend of Buffington’s, shows the runner smiling at some friends as he crossed the finish line.

FOX 5 reached out to the Maryland Public Secondary School Athletic Association for comment but did not hear back.

Andy Mason tells FOX 5 his understanding was that the referee at the finish line determined Buffington’s actions to be "an action which brings discredit to an individual or their school," which is in the rulebook.

FOX 5 has learned from someone close to the situation that there was an official appeal at the meet to include coaches of the schools involved and officials with the meet.  FOX 5 is told the Catoctin coach was originally one of the coaches on the panel, but recused himself. After a brief hearing, the disqualification was upheld.

It is not clear whether any video of the incident was part of the review.

"I’m a huge track and field fan. I ran track as a kid. I still love it," Mason said. "I have a kid who runs track, loves the sport, loves covering it. But sometimes the sport does itself no favors with, you know, some of its rules. How are you supposed to get kids excited about a sport when they’re not allowed to be excited?"

Olympic athletes have responded to Mason’s tweet about the disqualification.

Manteo Mitchell was an Olympic sprinter and is currently training to qualify for the 2026 Olympics as a bobsledder.

"I’m involved in track and field and I know most of the officials are volunteers, and they take their job seriously and do a great job. But whoever made the call on that one, just revisit it and rethink. Put yourself in those shoes or in those spikes, rather, and think how would you feel if someone did that to you?"

Ashley Spencer won a bronze medal in the 2016 Rio Olympics and thought the disqualification was unfair, telling FOX 5 she throws her full support behind Buffington.

"We really do try finding the joy in every performance," Spencer said. "And essentially watching him be proud of the hard work he put in and progressing in such a way he, his coach, and teammates could be proud of, just to get punished for showing that bit of celebration. It just sucks the fun out of the sport."

FOX 5 attempted to reach Buffington for this report, but did not hear back.

The source close to the program tells FOX 5 the appeals process appears to be over, and the focus is now on the state championships in Landover starting Feb. 21.

Buffington told the Frederick News Post that he was "angry" and "confused" about the disqualification.