Illinois appellate court won’t bar CPS runners from meet

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CHICAGO — The Illinois Appellate Court says it won't immediately rule on a lower court decision that allows Chicago Public Schools cross-country runners to compete at the state championship meet Saturday.

The Illinois High School Association is seeking to overturn an order allowing the runners to compete in the postseason. The IHSA blocked their participation because a teachers' strike prevented their attendance at the regional meet.

The three-judge panel said Thursday it will rule on the IHSA appeal, but not before the meet in Peoria. A spokesman for the IHSA did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment.

Former Olympian Craig Virgin told WGN that this may be the only chance many of these athletes have to compete.

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"Most of them won't run in colleges," Virgin said. "Most of them won't run professionally or in the Olympics. So the whole point of athletics at the high school and college is inclusivity."

IHSA policy says athletes whose districts are on strike cannot compete, though an exception is made when strikes begin after the start of the postseason. Cook County Judge Neil Cohen last week called that an arbitrary distinction in ruling CPS runners could compete in sectionals.

The IHSA released the following statement:

“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. We are so appreciative of our partnership with Peoria High School and the Peoria Park District for their efforts in making this event come to life. For many, the events of the past few weeks likely led them to report on or take interest in cross country for the first time. We hope they will consider making the trip to Peoria on Saturday to support all the competing student-athletes, as the IHSA Cross Country State Finals truly are a spectacle. The history, tradition, and pageantry don’t just make it the biggest race in Illinois, but the finest in the country. We wish all the competitors great luck and fast times.”

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