CHICAGO (CBS) — In the final hour, a judge overturned the Illinois High School Association’s decision to keep student athletes from Saturday’s sectional meet.
There’s that old saying the race isn’t over until the clock runs out — and right before the courts closed with minutes remaining — that judge decided the Chicago teachers’ strike will not keep Chicago Public Schools cross country runners from proving what they can do.
As the Lane Tech cross country team hit the pavement Friday afternoon — across town an attorney argued why this team and dozens of other CPS runners should participate in sectionals.
“I actually got a call maybe half an hour ago to get to the courtroom as fast as possible, thank god I came,” Jones College Prep senior Ian Bacon said.
There were big hugs from Bacon with the attorney who fought to make sure the cross country runners received fair treatment from the IHSA.
“After the appeal was denied we didn’t think there was any possibility we were gonna be able to run sectionals but here we are now,” Bacon said.
Judge Neil Cohen ruled the IHSA could not keep these students from running despite the teachers’ strike.
The attorney who fought for the runners, Kevin Sterling, is also the father of a cross country runner at Jones.
“Frankly, we came here today really with nothing to lose and today Judge Cohen is the smartest judge in the room,” Sterling said.
The runners wanted fair treatment — especially after the IHSA made an exception for CPS football players to get the mandated practices in during the strike.
“I don’t begrudge the football players, we’re all in for Simeon, we’re all in for all the other CPS high schools that are having their opportunity,” Sterling said.
One such team is the Mustangs of Morgan Park.
The team had one final practice, then loaded up and jumped on a bus for a more than four-hour drive to East St. Louis to make their playoff game.
“We’re about to go down here and play some real good ball,” said one player.
But their coach Chris James admits the team faced another hurdle even after the strike ended
“A lot of people that coordinate our travel as far as where we’re staying and putting out checks for CPS, they were still on strike,” James said. “Luckily the bus company was understanding and the hotels were understanding.”
Late Friday IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson said in a written statement IHSA will conduct its cross country sectionals as planned.
“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.”