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Morgan Park girls must unfairly choose between IHSA track championship or prom: Mitchell

Updated: May 25, 2014 3:50PM

You would think a man like track coach Derrick Calhoun would get a lot more respect from his school.

After all, Calhoun recently saw two of his former athletes win international championships: Aja Evans, who switched from track to bobsled, won a bronze medal at Sochi this year and Alexandria Anderson, who won a gold medal as part of a sprint relay at the 2011 World Championships.

Over his 25-year career, Calhoun has won seven IHSA state titles, and has helped many young people use track and field to obtain college scholarships.

Earlier this year, the Morgan Park High School track coach was inducted into the Illinois Track and Cross Country Coaches Association’s Hall of Fame.

But despite the championships his track teams have won, school administrators neglected to check the IHSA calendar for the dates of this year’s track and field state finals before making arrangements for this year’s senior prom.

Anyone can access a five-year IHSA calendar on the Internet for all sports programs.

That calendar shows the girls track and field state finals will be held May 22-24 at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston. Morgan Park’s prom is scheduled for May 23 at the Adler Planetarium.

That means five seniors who are on the track team are in a quandary.

“They did that without checking to see when the state meet would take place. They could have asked IHSA if this would be a conflict, but none of that was done,” Calhoun said.

Morgan Park Principal Carolyn Epps said, “hundreds of students have already made arrangements to attend the prom festivities” and the school had entered into a contract for the venue over a year ago.

“We are proud of our fellow Mustangs, and will cheer them on to victory at this year’s tournament,” Epps said in an email statement.

But Regina Wilson, whose daughter Regine Hoover is one of the seniors caught between prom and track, said she tried to get the prom date changed in early March.

“The Planetarium had two other dates, and the parents said they would pay the difference, but the principal refused to budge,” she said.

According to Wilson, it would have cost an additional $1,400 to switch the days. “We were willing to go the extra mile. But Morgan Park knows their girls go downstate every year. Now it’s a tear between them going to prom and them going downstate,” Calhoun said.

The girl’s track team is considered among the best in the state, and from 1994-2005, never finished lower than second at state finals.

More important, the program helps girls get college scholarships.

“How could [school officials] be so nonchalant about it? Scholarship money is hard to come by. Now my daughter is at the point of us trying to figure out what we are going to do: Go downstate or go to the prom,” Wilson said.

The five seniors have run track together for four years. Most of them had already picked out their prom dresses when the scheduling conflict was discovered early last month.

Wilson said she immediately called the school’s principal but was not able to get a meeting.

“I know there is nothing we can do now, but I don’t want to see this happen again. These girls have worked hard and should not have to make a choice,” Wilson said.

Mistakes happen.

But the school administrator responsible for this mistake apparently doesn’t take the commitment of these student athletes seriously.

I can’t imagine school administrators shrugging off concerns if they had erroneously put a winning football or basketball team in such an impossible situation.

Morgan Park’s track program deserves that same level of respect.

“It should not come down to seniors having to choose between participating in a state championship and going to the prom,” Calhoun said.

“Those calendars should be looked at and events planned accordingly, so that kind of stress would not be put on seniors.”


Twitter: @MaryMitchellCST

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