CHICAGO (CBS) — There were big smiles from cross-country runners Thursday night, after finding out that she and some of her fellow students will be allowed to compete in the IHSA Cross-Country State Championship this weekend.
“I am fully relieved and extremely excited that I will be able to compete in the state meet without any hindrance, and without any interference with the IHSA,” said Taft High School senior Sydney Partyka.
Partyka said colleges will be able to look at her legitimate finishing times now that she will be able to run in the state meet.
“With everything going on in the last three weeks, I thought that was it – my season was over. And I think, I’m just honestly so happy that I finally to get to run it,” she said. “It’s my last year. It’s my last state race ever. So it’s going to be really special.”
Student athletes have been in a back-and-forth legal battle following the Chicago teachers’ strike last month.
IHSA strike policy nearly ended the athletes’ season early. With the CPS teachers on strike for 11 days last month, the kids couldn’t run – which disqualified them from the postseason and put some college dreams on hold.
But just hours before the regional tournament a day after after the strike was over, a judge allowed several schools to run.
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.
On Monday, the Illinois High School Association, which oversees high school athletics for the state, announced it was appealing the decision.
In a statement Tuesday morning, the IHSA said the goal of its appeal is not to remove the CPS runners from the playoffs, but is instead seeking to avoid what it fears is a “dangerous legal precedent” allowing teams to circumvent playoff rules.
“We believe this ruling creates a dangerous legal precedent that hampers our ability to uphold the rules put into place by our member schools, and has far-reaching implications that impact the finality and integrity of any IHSA event,” IHSA executive director Craig Anderson said.
However, the IHSA acknowledged removing the CPS runners from the state finals is a possible outcome of their appeal.
But on Thursday, the Illinois Appellate Court announced there will be no ruling in the case until next week – which is after het state competition.
In a statement, Anderson said in part: ““We remain respectful to the courts and will continue to follow the timeline they set forth. We are excited that the spotlight can now return where it belongs, on the student-athletes. Saturday will be an incredible day, as the IHSA celebrates 50 years of running the IHSA Cross Country State Finals at Detweiler Park in Peoria.”