Tony's Take: Track and Field Is The Cosmos

Jude Christine comes to the United States already versed in international competition experience (Jude Christian photo credit)

We are finally underway for the 2017 track and field season in Illinois! Actually, competitions have been taking place among many of our state competitors since the Thanksgiving holiday period. It's hard to believe that two months later we are ready to see some top performances throughout the state.

One of the early tip off points of interest that I received was from former Edwardsville Metro-East Lutheran High School coach Dave Redden. Coach Redden has retired from teaching but is still coaching young men and women in the St. Louis metro area. One lad that he threw at me is a kid named Jude Christine. Christine is an exchange student from Sainte-Luce, Martinique which France oversees. However, Christine is not your ordinary exchange student. He is enrolled as an 18 year-old senior this fall at Gateway Legacy Christian Academy in Granite City sporting personal bests of 21.97 (200m) and 48.00 (400m) indoors and has clocked 47.62 outdoors. The goal is to get a qualifying time for the European juniors this summer as Christine is a member of the French junior national team. Christine has competed in several open/club races this winter before sustaining an injury to his hamstring on January 22.

According to Redden, Christine came to the US to enhance his English skills as well as obtain a college scholarship. He is being recruited by several major universities and plans to become a surgeon. Among the top schools are the University of Illinois-Champaign, University of Missouri, and University of Nebraska. Christine would like to be a surgeon one day. 

There may be a few obstacles that are in Christine's way though. His school is not a member of the IHSA and as of today they cannot compete in dual, invites or even championship meets such as the Illinois Top Times. "Being from Illinois, for as long as I remember, the IHSA was high school sports in Illinois- there was no other consideration," said Redden. He added: "Now I see there's a whole world out there in high school athletics. There are a decent number of associated and approved schools affiliated with the IHSA who have limited access to IHSA opponents, but a much larger number of unaffiliated teams who have very good athletes that participate against other teams all over the country." Redden is correct and with issues with funding for public education things could change in the near future. "I have no doubt that we will see an upsurge of athletic competition in non-IHSA schools in the next few years," noted Redden. "With huge financial issues in the public schools, small private schools give students the opportunity to participate in athletics and other activities throughout high school while being educated in a family style, faith based academic setting."

Illinois Top Times technical director Dan Andrews offered his thoughts regarding the Christine situation.

"Look it's about the kids and running under an IHSA sanction with Clinton as the host school. The IHSA by laws which govern this are 2.050 and 2.060. It's up to school in question that is not in the association to fit an acceptable criteria to enter athletes and not us because we are not a governing body. We will not jeopardize the 1100+ athletes or 500+ schools competing into being sanctioned for rules violations of IHSA by laws."

"Limiting participation to IHSA member schools is the only way this can work and work well without opening a can of worms. Interscholastic athletics is an important part of the educational process we wholly support and encourage. If we open the competition to a new balance like atmosphere we risk opening up club teams and individual entries to the meet. We appreciate club teams and what they contribute to the sport and wholly support the role club teams do in developing the sport of track & field, but this is not that type of meet. This meet is an interscholastic competition governed by an interscholastic athletic organization where we as meet managers have to weigh and balance how to maintain that aspect as well as provide a state championship type meet."

All is not lost at the moment for Christine who is officially listed in rankings annals with the #1 400m at 49.11. He will be able to compete in the upcoming New Balance Indoor Nationals March 10-12 in New York. Ironically, there will be athletes from Illinois competing alongside Christine albeit 700 miles from the Illinois border. Stay tuned for more details later on Christine as it continues to unfold.