The Illinois High School Association's slogan is "Play Smart. Play Hard," but do they really want Chicago Public School student-athletes to play at all? One of the IHSA's core beliefs is "IHSA believes equality and fairness must always be safeguarded." How is it fair that these kid's teachers endured a strike for two weeks and they have to miss out on the state series?
Due to the IHSA policy, hundreds of CPS student-athletes weren't allowed to take part in their regional competition during the Chicago Teachers Union Strike, which ended on October 31st- two days prior to sectional competition.
Runners and coaches pleaded, begged, and debated for them to be allowed into competition prior to regionals, but were denied by both the IHSA and in court. After the strike was over, it opened up a new case to allowing the CPS runners to run. The IHSA's Board of Directors reviewed the case on November 2nd at 7:30 am, but it ended with them rejecting the appeal. After an emergency temporary restraining order was filed one last time on behalf of the CPS kids, they finally got the words they had been looking for.. they were allowed to run in the sectional championships! Everyone thought we could put this behind us... or so we thought.
I can certainly attest to what these student-athletes are going through. After graduating last year and still covering the sport that I dearly love, I could not find closure to a "failed" running career. That's until I found myself embroiled in this controversy. While reporting on the daily deluge of events, I began to feel a sense of relief and it was as though I had been in mental therapy along with the athletes.
I can fondly recall over my three years as a cross country runner for Plainfield South, I had the misfortune of missing out of competing in the state championship in succession. During my sophomore year, it was one of the hardest pills to swallow as we missed advancing to Peoria by a mere 23 points. I competed in the regional but missed on the sectional round, and would have been in the state final lineup.
The following season, my confidence along with the team's prospect of finally making it to state appeared to be golden. Unfortunately, I was struck by an untimely injury at the Palatine Invite in which I tore my posterior tibial ligament. Needless to say, my season would come to a crashing fault.
Finally, one last chance like so many seniors who put everything on the line- all of the sacrifices for an opportunity to line up against the best runners in the state meet. I had the best summer in terms of training of my career. I was able to complete quality workouts consistently which in turn boosted my confidence. Running tempo runs at 5:40 pace for three-miles seemed to be easy. But once again, tragedy would strike as I went down with a hip injury. I would leave high school devastated.
Although my career was not impacted in the same way my peers from the CPS was, I was able to relate in a way mentally that hurts for a long time. And as some of the young men and women can compete one final time in their high school uniform, I will be alongside them in spirit.