Senior boys on District 186 track and field teams will have to run pretty fast to make graduation and the statewide finals in Charleston next year. Both events take place on the same day, Saturday, May 29, 2004.
"There will definitely be a concern among parents," says Tammy Bolden, athletic director for Southeast High School, who was unaware of the conflict until notified by Illinois Times. Bolden says Southeast's track team includes at least three seniors likely to make finals. Southeast won't be the only school affected.
The scheduling conflict is news to many of the district's athletic directors and coaches. "At least now we can be thinking of it," says Mike Garcia, head men's track and field coach for Lanphier High School.
A couple of years ago, Lanphier's baseball team had a tournament game on the day of graduation, says Jim Cozzolino, the school's athletic director. Senior ballplayers were allowed to get in front of the graduation line so they could quickly get their diplomas and leave to play ball. But such an option for the track athletes is unlikely, Cozzolino says. The Charleston meet is a two-day event beginning on Friday, May 28. It's not uncommon for athletes to arrive as early as Thursday night.
"That's just par with spring sports," says Garcia. With college touring, ceremonial dinners, sports tournaments, proms, and graduations, there will always be a conflict somewhere, he says. "For some schools it's always a problem. For us, it hasn't been -- until this year. It's one of those situations you have to work with." Garcia says that one possible solution is to hold a special ceremony just for the track students.
Carol Votsmier, a spokesperson for District 186, acknowledges parents and students will probably have to choose between attending graduation and the meet. "I don't believe that we took into consideration athletic events when we were building our calendar," she says.
In 2001, the school district moved 2004 graduation ceremonies from June 5 to May 29 after bumbling its Prairie Capital Convention Center reservation. The date change caused controversy earlier this year because the district, to accommodate the new date, began school a week early, on Aug. 22. On Aug. 21, the temperature reached a record 100 degrees Fahrenheit in Springfield. During that first week of school, students were let out of class early to ease suffering from the heat. Students brought water bottles to class and some parents even donated rounds of Popsicles.