Chicago Public Schools cross country runners narrowly get approval to compete in sectional meets Saturday

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago Public Schools cross county runners barely made it to the starting line of sectionals Saturday after the Illinois High School Association forbade them from practicing during the teachers strike.

A Cook County judge granted a temporary restraining order to allow cross country athletes from Jones College Prep and five other schools to compete in sectional meets on Saturday.

Jones College Prep filed an emergency injunction after the IHSA prohibited them from practicing during the strike. Cross country runners already missed the opportunity to compete in regional meets last weekend.
Jones College Prep and the other schools argued that they should get special compensation because the strike was a circumstance out of their control. They said they worked hard and should be able to qualify for college scholarships and advance through to the state competitions.

The judge agreed, saying the IHSA's policy was too vague and that it would cause irreparable harm to students to miss sectional meets Saturday.

"We were not expecting that to work out and no idea that we would be able to run," said Tommy Donohoe, a cross country runner at Lane Tech College Prep High School.

"It was decided they would let us run the sectional cross country meet along with all the CPS athletes," said Ian Bacon, Jones College Prep cross country runner.

By rule, not competing in the regionals disqualifies the teams from advancing in state tournaments. The judge waived that rule just hours before Saturday's race.

"As we were walking over here I said, 'There's no time left on the clock. This is our last chance,'" said Kevin Sterling, attorney and father of Jones College Prep cross country runner.

"This turn of events has been a crazy roller coaster," said Shannon Tierney, a runner for William Howard Taft High School. "We were not taking a stance on the strike, we were just trying to run.

Nearly a dozen CPS runners qualified for the state meet individually.

Mather High School qualified as a team.

Jones College Prep boys cross country has three runners heading to Peoria next weekend.

Their coach, Andrew Aldemann, is proud his athletes stuck it out and fought for what was right.

"One of the first times walking away from a meet where we didn't have our best day, but still ecstatic to see them out there," Aldemann said.

Although runners were turned down in court repeatedly, the IHSA has already approved 19 CPS football teams to compete in playoffs Saturday.

Simeon High School was granted an exception by IHSA to be able to compete in their post-season despite the strike.

"They did it for football and volleyball and you shrug your shoulders and wonder why not cross country," Sterling said.

Athletes from all sports hope the IHSA will take a close look at their rules and allow flexibility for all of the teams.

"Why is an exception made for football teams to compete when it's not made for individual sports, like cross country," Judge Cohen said. "You're cherry-picking who you waive policies for."

The IHSA issued a statement saying:

"The Illinois High School Association will conduct its IHSA Boys & Girls Cross Country Sectionals as planned on November 2, and will include all runners impacted by the Chicago Public Schools strike per the Temporary Restraining Order granted this evening by the Honorable Neil H. Cohen. The CPS teams will compete at the Sectional site correlated with their Regional. We prepped our Sectional hosts for this potential outcome this afternoon, and have been working this evening to get them the information necessary to expand their meets. We will have meaningful discussion with our Board of Directors, staff, and legal representation throughout the weekend as we determine our next steps."
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