FREEPORT – In 2014, everything runs on some sort of battery or electricity – even track meets.
The 2A Freeport Girls Track Sectional went smoothly during the preliminary runs and field events, but when it came time to start the finals, something went wrong.
During the first race of the finals portion, the 3,200 relay, the timing system at Freeport High School stopped working. Computers were down for nearly an hour, and it sent meet officials scrambling to find a solution.
But it was too late. Two schools – more importantly, the hard-working athletes – were robbed of a chance to compete at the state meet. Many athletes dream of the opportunity, some their entire lives, to compete on the state's biggest stage.
On Friday, Rock Falls and Kaneland were robbed of that chance.
Due to the power outage, no time was recorded in the event. Both Kaneland and the Rockets relay teams ran times well under the state-qualifying standard but, besides hand times, nothing was official. After making several phone calls to the IHSA, meet officials told those schools that only the top two would advance, leaving the athletes from those schools to wonder why they wouldn't be able to compete next weekend.
"Everyone in the stadium saw we were ahead of that state time," Rock Falls distance coach Mark Truesdell said. "It's ridiculous that they will penalize teenaged kids that have worked so hard like this."
Sterling coach Tyler Gaumer's team had placed second in the race, but he saw the faces of his athletes ... and the ones who were told no.
"I just feel for the kids who have worked so hard all year long to this point," he said. "And to have your opportunity taken away like that is not right."
Meet officials pointed to the rule book and said nothing further could be done.
"It just went downhill from there," Truesdell said.
Instead of sending four athletes to state, the Rockets' season ended Friday.