IHSA putting student-athlete priorities to the test05/06/2011 Elmwood Park Elmwood Park junior Patricia Wojcik competes in the shot-put event during the Metro Suburban Conference track meet at Elmwood Park High School on Friday, May 6, 2011. | Michael Jarecki ~ for Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 27, 2012 11:45AM
Patricia Wojcik had to figure it was bad news when she was called into the principal’s office.
It wasn’t about anything Wojcik did wrong, though. Elmwood Park principal Jim Jennings had to break the news to Wojcik, a senior thrower for the Tigers’ track team, that she was going to face a real dilemma on May 10.
On that day, Elmwood Park is scheduled to compete in the Class 2A Fenwick Sectional at Concordia University. It’s also the day Wojcik is set to take the Advanced Placement English exam.
There actually will be two sectionals at Concordia that day; St. Ignatius is the host for the 3A meet. Both will be run concurrently, rather than consecutively, meaning athletes essentially will have to be there all day. That’s where the conflict with the AP test comes in, especially for field event performers such as Wojcik.
How to resolve this problem is something she and her coach, John Kingsmill, aren’t sure of at this point.
“I’m really disappointed that they would make us choose,” said Wojcik, who has hopes of qualifying for state in the shot put. “It’s so important with AP testing, which will affect us for college. People who are doing track next year for college, they don’t know what to choose.
“Hopefully we can come up with a compromise.”
The AP test is a big deal because a high enough score can earn a student college credit, which could mean big savings once they get to college. But the sectional is a big deal, too, especially for someone like Wojcik who doesn’t plan to compete in college. It’s her last hurrah and she doesn’t see why she should have to choose between academics and athletics.
Neither do a number of schools in the Class 2A sectional field. According to Kingsmill, several contacted the IHSA seeking to move the 2A sectional, and Glenbard South offered to step in as the host, leaving just the 3A sectional at Concordia.
But, Kingsmill said, the IHSA said the schedule would remain as is.
“They appreciated Glenbard South’s offer,” he said, “[but said] that it would be an insult to Fenwick [to move the 2A sectional] and sometimes student-athletes need to make a choice.”
That makes it sound like the IHSA believes sports come ahead of academics, which is not the message the organization should be sending. Calls to IHSA assistant executive director Ron McGraw, who oversees track and field, were not returned this week. Assistant executive director Matt Troha was gathering information on the situation, but was unable to respond by Thursday evening.
What we do know is that neither Fenwick nor St. Ignatius are the bad guys here. Both should be commended for being willing to host a sectional — which many schools are either unwilling or unable to do. While Fenwick has traditionally hosted meets at Concordia, St. Ignatius looked at other venues, including the University of Chicago. But none met all of the IHSA’s requirements for a sectional.
One problem in track as well as other sports is too few schools are willing to serve as hosts for IHSA events. The best solution here would be for one of the 3A schools to step in as a host, or to allow St. Ignatius to host the meet at their venue.
Complicating the matter is the fact that it’s prom season, which is one reason the sectionals are on Thursday and there is no rain date. But that raises another issue, especially considering Concordia doesn’t have lights. What happens if a wave of thunderstorms blow through the area on May 10, forcing the meet to be delayed? Without lights or a rain date, meet organizers may be tempting fate if things don’t proceed according to schedule.
Meanwhile, Wojcik waits and hopes the adults can figure out a way to allow kids to do the right thing: Take the AP test as planned and also compete at the sectional. St. Ignatius athletic director Jim Prunty said some St. Ignatius students will take a makeup AP English test. But the makeup test is on May 25, seven days after Elmwood Park’s graduation and two days after its last day of school.
“It’s just sad,” Wojcik said. “We want to do both. My high school is small; everyone is involved in everything. ... It’s stressful because of the test. Now I’m worrying about both.
“I don’t understand why they’re being so stubborn.”
Neither do I.