Seniors face dilemma between ditch day and athletics

Attendance required to participate in sports, and ditch day is no exception


Many senior students abstained from Senior Ditch Day on May 3 due to an athletic policy that required their attendance in school that day.
The policy requires students to attend school from fourth period until the end of the day in order to be eligible to participate in athletics.
Although attaining athletic eligibility is not a problem for students on most days, seniors participating in spring sports were faced with a difficult decision on May 3: enjoy the tradition of Ditch Day or honor their commitment to their athletic teams.
“When you join track, or any other team, there is an assumption of commitment,” said senior Daniel Hess. “While it can suck to miss something that all of your friends get to do, compared with all the positives of being on the team, [missing ditch day was] totally worth it.”
Hess, a member of the boys varsity track and field team, originally planned to participate in Ditch Day, but opted to attend school after learning of the policy. Hess’s choice to remain in school seemed to be in consensus with other seniors on the varsity track and field team, due to competing in was the Central Suburban League Conference Meet that night.
The seniors on the girls track and field teams had similar predicaments as they were competing in their respective conference meets on Ditch Day as well. Senior Lauren Russell, one of the few throwers on the varsity team, attended school in order to compete in the meet, but she still felt resentful about her absence from Ditch Day.
“Missing ditch day was definitely not worth throwing in the meet,” said Russell. “[I wouldn’t] say that track isn’t important to me, but I would’ve much rather ditched with everyone else instead of staying in school on the one day that my parents would’ve actually let me skip.”
Although members of the track and field team felt more inclined to attend school due to the importance of their meet, student-athletes who were still weeks away from their postseason decided to come to school as well.
John Keenan, a senior on the varsity baseball team, opted against ditching in favor of playing a regular season game at Niles North.
Despite the discrepancy in enthusiasm about missing Ditch Day for athletic competition, most student-athletes competing on the night of May 3 chose to attend the half-day of school rather than be absent during a critical stretch of the spring sports season.
“Most of our athletes, and all of the athletes that I know of, went to that half-day of school so that they could compete that night,” said athletic director Augie Fontanetta. “It’s very important for the athletes to compete, and, they see a lot of value in that, which is why they came to school on that particular day.”
Seeking the thrill of competing was not just limited to the athletes on teams with competitions on May 3. Many student-athletes who had team practices scheduled after the half-day of school abstained from Senior Ditch Day due to their commitment to their respective teams.
“Personally, I would have really liked to have spent the day with my close friends at the Cubs game, but I was trying to focus on the bigger picture,” said senior Lilly Frentzel. “It would be fun to [have been] in those photos and share those memories [of ditch day] with my friends, but I wasn’t willing to risk that for [the chance] of going to state.”
Frentzel, as well as all of her senior teammates on the varsity soccer team, skipped Senior Ditch Day in order to remain eligible to practice the day before their game against Lake Forest. Frentzel also remarked that the athletic policy aligns head coach James Burnside’s philosophy about the importance of school in relation to athletics.
“I know we have to be in school for more than half the day to participate in practices and games, but [Coach Burnside also] stresses that school always comes before soccer and [the] team takes that very seriously,” said Frentzel.
Burnside’s stance is not unprecedented. Boys varsity track and field coach Mark Wukas also wholeheartedly supports the policy.
“I tell my track team that if you do not come to school, you will not compete [in the meet],” said Wukas. “My mother always used to say, ‘If you’re too sick to go to school, then you’re too sick to play,’ so that’s my motto.”