Runners Had Been Deemed Ineligible Because Of Teachers' Strike

CHICAGO (CBS) — It’s the goal of all athletes to make it to the postseason – but that dream was in jeopardy for hundreds of students in the Chicago Public Schools thanks to the teachers’ strike.

But on Saturday, that had all changed and the finish line was in sight.

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As CBS 2’s Cesar Rodriguez reported Saturday morning, the fight between CPS and the Chicago Teachers Union kept cross-country runners from competing in their qualifying races.

But in the final hour on Friday, a Cook County judge heard an emergency motion and overturned the Illinois High School Association’s decision to keep student athletes from the Saturday state sectional meet for boys’ and girls’ cross-country runners.

Judge Neil Cohen said he was “tired of adults robbing kids of their childhood.”

He noted that CPS football teams had obtained an exception from the IHSA to compete during the strike, and said it was unfair that the same exception did not apply to other sports.

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

On Friday morning, the IHSA had ruled against CPS cross country runners, saying they should not be granted special permission to run, even though the Chicago teachers’ strike removed their eligibility.

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“We just kept telling each other to hold out hope, and just keep praying that we would have the opportunity, and then so that came down to today, when we genuinely thought there was no chance. After the appeal was denied, we didn’t think there was any possibility we were going to be able to run sectionals,” said Jones College Prep senior Ian Bacon. “But here we are now.”

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.

An attorney for the IHSA would not comment on whether the organization will revisit its policies for individual sports. Meanwhile, the runners are ready to compete.

Other CPS athletes are also competing Saturday. Simeon Career Academy took on on Lakes of Lake Villa at Gately Stadium Saturday afternoon.

Simeon beat Lakes 34-3.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot came to Gately Stadium ahead of the Simeon game.

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