Numbers don't add up for Westminster Christian baseball
In 2010, Westminster Christian won the Class 1A baseball championship.
The Warriors will not get that chance this season, virus or no virus.
Down to 115 students and denied an Illinois High School Association bylaw variance exception to form a cooperative team with Elgin neighbor Harvest Christian, the Warriors will not field a team.
"Like many parents at Westminster Christian, we're disappointed that this happened," said Tim Oman, whose son, Tyler, is a senior catcher.
Realistically, on its own Westminster was not going to compete for a title. Last season, down to 12 players and only four with prior baseball experience, Tim Oman said, the Warriors went 1-15 according to their page on the MaxPreps website.
The numbers were slated to be fewer this season, Oman said, so Westminster athletic director Rich Engle met with his Harvest Christian counterpart, Greg Bradshaw, to propose a coop.
Harvest Christian placed fourth in Class 1A in 2019, its fourth straight season winning a regional title. Its numbers aren't huge -- 16, Oman said -- but with the few from Westminster there might have been enough for varsity and junior varsity teams.
Additionally, the same arrangement was sought in softball. This time, it was Westminster Christian that had just enough girls to field a team with Harvest Christian's players seeking to join the Warriors as a unit.
The athletic directors agreed to proceed, and Oman said the move was met by unanimous approval by the Northeastern Athletic Conference, in which both Elgin schools compete.
The next move was to apply to the IHSA to create a coop. Bylaw particulars stood in the way of that.
Sam Knox, the IHSA assistant executive director responsible for baseball among other sports, said only private schools with non-multiplied enrollment of 200 or less are eligible to form cooperative teams.
While Harvest Christian's enrollment has since dipped below 200, classifications for the current and 2020-21 academic years are based on average enrollments submitted by schools on Sept. 30, 2016, and Sept. 30, 2017. In that time frame, Harvest Christian had an average enrollment of 210 students.
Realizing this, the schools applied for a variance exception to a rule formerly contained within IHSA bylaws pertaining to "Administrative Procedures, Guidelines and Policies." Dealing with classifications, a section called Policy 17 stated that if a school's enrollment dropped by more than 20 percent it could apply for a variance.
Oman said the rule was on the IHSA website at the time the appeal was drafted, but the current bylaws were written into the IHSA policy handbook in time for this school year.
"Our bylaws are written by and approved by our member schools," Knox said, "and when a bylaw is approved and written into our handbook, all schools are saying we will follow these bylaws."
On Feb. 24, Oman said, the IHSA board of directors denied the appeal.
"We did our best, we tried following all the steps but that was the end of the game," said Sydney Knudsen, Harvest Christian Academy assistant athletic director.
"We just want the kids to be able to play," Oman said.
Thought it would be interesting to ask a few coaches their thoughts on their most memorable team pep talks or motivational speeches this winter season.
Fortunately, a couple state champions responded.
"This season I stated, 'He who finds fresh oil will prevail,'" said St. Charles East boys bowling coach Steve Dessauer, whose Saints improved upon their third-place finish in 2015.
St. Charles East stuck with the pattern in more ways than one to find success.
"We were the best team in the second half of many tournaments. We finished first in all our tournaments except one, and we won state this year," Dessauer said.
St. Charles North boys swimming and diving coach Rob Rooney stressed establishing a "presence" as a "group of men who demanded respect."
The North Stars earned that by, if nothing else, winning their second straight state title, a tight decision over Loyola, 137 points to 135.
"My biggest push was at the end of the season with the terms, 'Brains, Heart and Courage,' and eluded to the fact that the program was built around learning to utilize these common words to build a championship team," Rooney said.
At one point he also told the boys: "Work hard, believe, achieve, put in the work and go home."
At this point, at least temporarily, home is where we'll have to do all that stuff.