CHICAGO (CBS) — A big cross-country meet for north side public school students Friday got off on the wrong foot. 

The North Side Sectional race at Horner Park, for students in grades 5 through 8, was supposed to begin at 3:55 p.m.

At the appointed time, more than 700 runners were on hand, but not the event manager — who had been laid off by the system hours earlier. 

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School board spokesperson Marielle Sainvilus said coaches called public schools administrators and they scrambled to find a replacement.

“The meet did start half an hour late and we do apologize to everybody who was involved, from the parents to the students,” she said.

Sainvilus said once the replacement event manager arrived, the rest of the afternoon went smoothly.

“It did go as planned and it was actually very successful,” she said. 

Sainvilus declined to answer additional questions, citing Board of Education personnel rules. 

Chicago Public Schools administrators are eliminating hundreds of jobs to try to reduce the board’s yawning $700 million deficit. 

The runners sought to qualify for the citywide cross-country meet Oct. 29.  Sainvilus said school officials expect it to take place without delay.