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Thursday, Nov. 24, 2016: Catching up on some national developments

   Leading off today: Common sense staged an impressive rally on the national high school sports scene on two fronts in the past 24 hours.

   On Wednesday, a Cook County judge rejected a challenge by Fenwick High to overturn its disputed playoff football loss in the Illinois state tournament, ruling that she had no authority to change the outcome of the game.

   "Here, as on the playing field, one side wins and one side loses," Judge Kathleen Kennedy said.

   The decision cleared the way for Plainfield North to play in the Class 7A championship game against East St. Louis on Saturday in Champaign, Ill.

   Fenwick filed the lawsuit Monday after the Illinois High School Association refused to hear an appeal of its 18-17 loss to Plainfield North in overtime. A mistaken decision by officials with no time left in regulation allowed Plainfield North to tie last weekend's game with a field goal and then win in OT.

   While legal challenges go back decades, no court has ever overturned the final score of a high school or college game, said Alan Goldberger, a sports law attorney in New Jersey.

   "There's lots of perceived injustices that the court cannot address," Goldberger said. "You can't have athletics if everybody is going to court if they feel a call in a game was incorrect. ... It's terrible and it's a bad break ... but children also have to learn -- and parents have to learn -- that there are setbacks in life."

   Fenwick Principal Peter Groom expressed disappointment with the ruling but said no further legal action would be pursued.

   "We owed our students a fair hearing of their grievance," Groom said. "We received a fair hearing, and now it's finished."

   Meanwhile, a distance-running situation with more twists and turns this week than a cross country course mapped out by a man with vertigo and a faulty compass appears to have been resolved Thursday as Grace Ping revealed she will be allowed to race at Nike Cross Nationals after all.

   Ping, a superb Utah junior-high runner, had qualified for next months NXN finals by means of her finish in last weekend's Southwest Regional.

   However, questions starting flying because Utah does not allow seventh- and eight-graders to compete in varsity sports, putting her qualification at odds with a presumed NXN policy of adhering to state sanctioning body regulations even tough the Nike Cross Nationals is not an "official" high school event. (FYI, that's why teams compete under club names rather than as representing their high school.) The thought in certain circles has been that Nike would like to forge a relationship with the National Federation, an umbrella organization for nearly all the country's high school sanctioning bodies.

   Complicating the matter, Ping lived in Minnesota until this year. As is the case in New York, Minnesota seventh- and eighth-graders can compete on the varsity, and Ping not only qualified for the NXN finals in Portland, Ore., but finished 14th overall.

   It initially appeared she would be green-lighted for this year since she competed in the regional meet and because Nike did away a few years ago with a rule specifying athletes had to be eligible to have competed for their school in the fall. Whether they did actually compete for the school was immaterial as long as they were eligible.

   But the tide turned Tuesday when Nike called the Ping family to inform them she was ineligible. The company wasn't talking publicly, but the decision was almost


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  • certainly made out of concern for Ping, who holds world records for her age at several distances. The fear had to be that allowing her to compete could create eligibility issues with Utah's scholastic association for Ping once she's old enough to compete on her varsity team.

       "These concerns have been resolved," Ping told "Thanks to Nike for being awesome and I can't wait to race."

       A Thanksgiving read: I had mentioned a couple of weeks ago that a blood drive in honor of former Rush-Henrietta coach and AD Werner Kleemann is scheduled for next Wednesday at the high school.

       In Thursday's Democrat and Chronicle, columnist Leo Roth wrote an outstanding feature about Kleemann who diagnosed this spring with NK LGL leukemia, a rare form of chronic blood cancer. That latest in a series of health issues means Kleemann must undergo frequent blood transfusions.

       As the column explains, Kleemann has been uncomfortable with the idea of so much medical attention being expended upon him because there's always a demand for blood for others being treated for illnesses and, of course, injuries from the likes of accidents, etc.

       That's why some former players got the ball rolling for this blood drive, which Red Cross officials said is shaping up as one of the area's largest "in honor over" donation events in recent memory.

       Kleemann has no reason to feel embarrassed. It's folks like e who should be embarrassed; I'm 54 years old, but next Wednesday will be just the first time I will have donated blood. That will now be a recurring event on my calendar as often as I can.

       In any case, please read the Thanksgiving Day story. It's an outstanding bit of work.

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