A last ditch effort by the Jones College Prep cross-country teams to have its runners compete in tomorrow's Regional Championships was denied when a Cook County judge ruled on Friday that the teams will not be permitted to run while the Chicago Teachers Union strike is still ongoing.
Judge Eve M. Reilly's decision denied a temporary restraining order that had been sought by parents of the runners at Jones.
The ruling in this case reaches far beyond the runners at Jones. This impacts over 75 teams and hundreds over runners!
Unless the strike ends before the Regional Championships begin on Saturday at 9 a.m., no XC teams from any of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) can compete at regionals while their teachers and coaches are on strike.
And according to the Ilinois High School Association, the only way cross-country teams and runners can advance to the state championships is through a qualifying system that requires teams to compete at the Regional Championships. That means the season is over for most of the runners who can't compete at Regionals, and for many seniors, their high school XC careers have come to a painful and abrupt end.
According to a report by the Chicago Sun-Times, Reilly noted in her ruling that seniors "will not have another opportunity to compete in their beloved high school sport. It is not fair and it is wrong."
Reilly also wrote that "this court must balance student safety above all other concerns," and noted the Illinois High School Association had argued that if the restraining order were granted, "teachers and coaches would be forced to make a decision about crossing the picket line to carry out their duties" and that "schools would be forced to open ... to accommodate sports teams without adequate staff on hand to do so."
The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) went on strike over a week ago and it has gone on longer than anyone anticipated. What initially was thought to last just a few days have hit an impasse in negotiations.
Every sports team in the Chicago Public School system has been impacted by the strike, and over the last few days athletes from all over the city have united - football players, runners, tennis players, soccer players, etc. in an effort to have an opportunity to compete in their respective sports in the regional and state tournaments.
There have been numerous press and news conferences at City Hall this week where student-athletes from all over the city voiced their feelings on the matter, pleading for the chance to do what they love.
Even athletes who are not a part of the CPS have rallied around the affected teams in a strong showing of solidarity.
The 3A Chicago (Whitney Young) Cross-Country Regional on Saturday will be tremendously affected by the strike because there would only be two teams competing unless the strike ends before the meet- Leyden and Oak Park-River Forest.
"The girls are disappointed that there may be only 14 girls in the race," said Ashley Raymond, the head coach of the #19 ranked Huskies of OPRF. "The team is even more upset for the athletes that cannot run. We talked today about how we are proud of the athletes that spoke at the rally and went to the hearing this morning to stand up for themselves."
Elmwood Park coach Patrick Sheridan who is hosting a 2A Regional that was full of CPS teams added:
"Our team would like to represent the [Mather] Rangers/Solario Sun Warriors in the postseason somehow. Amundsen's Nelson Gates would have been a regional champion and state qualifier. But he's a senior and doesn't get the chance. Shame. Perhaps wearing some T-shirts underneath or bracelets or socks. Maybe the famous headbands/bandanas. They'll be represented. Hopefully at Detweiller too. Even if it's just one Running Tiger... runners are a family, even with different jerseys."
But, all is not lost.
Dick Pond Athletics, a top area running specialty outfit, has offered to put on a showcase for the CPS runners on November 7. More to come on this development.