If you heard some strange sounds this afternoon (Wednesday, Sept. 23), they probably were cheers coming from the city and county’s boys and girls golf and boys and girls cross-country coaches cheering the news that the Illinois High School Association’s board of directors had approved expanding the season-ending state championship series for their sports.
“Despite the challenges of this school year, our Board has remained committed to providing the most rewarding postseason experiences possible,” said IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson. “Given the relative success we have had safely conducting cross country and golf this fall, the Board asked our staff during the September Board meeting (September 14) to explore the possibility of expanding beyond Regionals to conduct Sectionals as well.”
Both sports were each initially scheduled to culminate their respective seasons after IHSA Regional meets, but will now conclude their respective seasons after the Sectional round. In golf, the top two teams and top four individuals in each Regional will advance to Sectional play. Cross Country will advance five teams from each Regional to Sectionals, with no changes in the individual qualifier field. IHSA staff attempted to maintain COVID regions and keep participant levels as low as possible when making assignments, but in some cases, generally those involving schools on or near a COVID border, schools were assigned to a tournament outside of their COVID region.
“Given the timing, our greatest challenge will be finding hosts, especially in cross country,” said Anderson. “We have been granted exemptions to compete outside the COVID Regions in instances, for example, where assigning schools on or near a region border creates better balance in the number of participants at a site. Based on the feedback we have received, we expect some schools will choose not to participate beyond Regionals. We respect those decisions, but still want to provide as many opportunities as possible.”
The Board also created an exemption to the season limitation rule to allow for participation in the Cross Country Sectionals, while temporarily modifying Terms & Conditions for both sports to allow greater flexibility in scheduling the respective meets. Golf Sectionals are slated for the week of October 12-17, while Cross Country Sectionals are expected to unfold October 29-31. Host sites and meet dates will be announced on IHSA.org soon.
I will have more on this developing story in a future print edition of the Decatur Tribune.