IHSA State Series Are Finally a Go

IHSA+State+Series+Are+Finally+a+Go

Beatrice Parr, Editor-in-Chief

For Latin’s summer athletes, the uncertainty is over: State series are officially happening this June. The IHSA board announced this decision on March 8 and posted sport-specific guidelines throughout the week. 

The IHSA noted that boys volleyball and boys and girls lacrosse cannot compete in a State Final under current Illinois Department of Public Health mitigations, but they approved a State Final in the hopes that guidelines will change in time for summer competition. In a statement, IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson said, “The Board wants to move forward for the overall good of IHSA student-athletes, however, they ask we remain diligent in our staff efforts to have IDPH reconsider certain mitigation guidelines.”

The Board is confident that they will be able to host State Finals safely. Director Anderson said, “The IHSA has been a national leader in risk mitigation throughout our 100-year history and have adapted our scope to include safety against COVID-19.” He emphasized the need for clear expectations and guidelines, saying, “We are eager to inform our coaches of the mitigation guidance so they can better prepare for their upcoming seasons and we plan to get detailed information out to them soon.”

So what does this mean for Latin students? According to Latin Athletics Director Sonny Lim, it means a lot. He said that qualifying Latin teams will compete in these series, as “the school is committed to providing support for all of our athletes, individuals and teams that qualify for the state series.” Latin is pushing its traditional sports camps back until later in the summer to accommodate these later competitions, implying that the school is planning for teams to make it to the finals. Mr. Lim predicted, “We’re going to have a good number of individuals and teams that might be able to qualify for the state series.” He has particularly high hopes for a trophy in track. “I think [they] are really going to pull it off.”

Senior Olivia Syftestad, who has been a member of Latin’s track and field teams since freshman year, is equally optimistic about the team’s state prospects. She said, “We’ve been training since quarantine began,” and after State was canceled last year, this new sense of certainty is giving the team “some sort of light at the end of the tunnel.” Some of the girls have been competing in indoor meets since December, with junior Ava Parekh winning the mile and senior Marianne Mihas earning eighth in the 800m at a national meet last month. Olivia predicts that the team’s hard work will continue to pay off. She said, “The state series should be really exciting to watch and I think we do have a shot at the title.”

The boys track and field team is equally excited about their state prospects. Senior Peter Bernhardt, who also has competed on the team since freshman year, said, “After a strong cross country season where the boys peaked at the state meet, we should be looking to do the same again on the track this summer.” He is excited for athletes of all grade levels to experience a State Final. “It will be awesome for the younger athletes to experience all of the adrenaline and pressure the environment provides.” Peter, junior Ryan Hardiman, and sophomores Akili Parekh and Evan Jones have been competing in indoor meets, and Peter feels that “given their hard work and indoor performances, I expect them to be successful on the track.” Just the mentality of preparing for a state meet may bring these athletes to the next level. Peter said, “It will be awesome for the younger athletes to experience all of the adrenaline and pressure the environment provides” and he is “stoked to have a state series this spring.”

Latin’s state potential extends beyond track and field. Senior and tennis captain Sujan Garapati said the team “can definitely compete for a state title this year.” Players have been training since last March and are excited to finally have an end goal to work towards. “It was tough last year when the season got canceled, because we had high hopes for what we could do,” he said. “But this year we’ve revamped, we’ve reloaded, and we’re ready to make a run for state.” He’s particularly excited to see juniors Will Benford and Sam Catino, as well as his younger brothers Kiran and Akshay, play. As someone who has played in several tournaments this past year, he said the “[IHSA state championship] can be done safely, it can be done well.”

Latin’s baseball team is also looking forward to getting the chance to compete in a state series. Senior and baseball captain Matthew Shrake pointed out, “Nearly our entire team from two years ago is returning this spring.” He emphasized their strong team dynamic, saying, “We feel really good about our chances if we stay connected as a team and give our full effort in every practice and game.”

The boys lacrosse team is excited as well. Senior and captain Shahab Kousheshi believes the playoffs will be “huge” for the team. He said, “It’s great to have something to be building and working towards all season and we’ve got a great group of guys this year and should be able to make some noise in the playoffs.”

Latin’s softball, water polo, tennis, boys volleyball, and girls soccer teams will have summer State series as well. After a year of uncertainty regarding athletics, these teams finally have something concrete to work towards. And some may emerge with trophies. 

Eli Aronson: I think this is the most talented team we’ve had in my high school career. It’s Coach Marinier’s third year leading the charge, and he’s done a really job at establishing culture in the one full season we’ve had. I truly believe this team has a chance to make a deep run at state and I’m super pumped that we’ll have the opportunity

Matthew Shrake: The news of a State series greatly excites me, as it allows our baseball team to participate in the playoffs during a time when so many athletes are prevented from competing. The team was hoping that we would get this chance because nearly our entire team from two years ago is returning this spring. We feel really good about our chances if we stay connected as a team and give our full effort in every practice and game.

Shahab: I think the IHSA having a state playoffs is huge for the lacrosse team. It’s great to have something to be building and working towards all season and we’ve got a great group of guys this year and should be able to make some noise in the playoffs.

Peter B: I think that everyone is excited to have the opportunity to compete at state, especially after not having a season last year. It will be awesome for the younger athletes to experience all of the adrenaline and pressure the environment provides. I think after a strong cross country season where the boys peaked at the state meet, we should be looking to do the same again on the track this summer. Akili Parekh and Ryan Hardiman have been improving rapidly this season, and it has been incredible to see them develop. Given their hard work and indoor performances, I expect them to be successful on the track. I know that the sprinters have also been working hard this season. Evan Jones has looked strong at various indoor meets, and Noah Reese-Clausen and Cole Fuller will look to impress in their final season running track for the Romans. After losing relays to the coronavirus, I’m excited to collaborate with my teammates in relays, despite the baton becoming a bit of a foreign object during the pandemic. Overall, I’m stoked to have a state series this spring, and I miss the competitive environment that the state finals fosters.  

Sonny Lim:

Latin will definitely adhere to the guidelines with regards to the state series for this summer season we have in place. The school is committed to providing support for all of our athletes, individuals and teams, that do qualify for the state series. We understand this is post commencement and we hope that everyone who does qualify will be able to participate. Once again the only effect that we do have is with our tradition summer sports camps that we host, we delayed those until after the state series has finished, so we’re hoping to still have as much of a normal summer setup as possible. And you know the beginning of August, we’re going to start the next season, so it’s going to be a very short turnaround but we’re very excited. I think that we’re going to have a good number of individuals and teams that might qualify for the state series. A trophy in track, every single possibility happening here, I high hopes and I think you guys are really going to pull it off. 

Olivia Syftestad:

It’s definitely given us something to look forward to now because we’ve been in a process of building for so long and we now have some sort of light at the end of the tunnel. We’ve been training since quarantine began so it’s nice to have something we’ve built up to. I think we have a chance of doing very very well, like I said we’ve put in time and effort and energy to improve and having this type of goal that we are able to build up to is promising. I think it definitely is (state title). I mean Ava Parekh, my teammate, alongside Marianne Mihas, have been competing in a ton of meets this off season. The state series should be really exciting to watch and I think we do have a shot at the title.

Sujan Garapati:

I’m really excited, it was tough last year when the season got cancelled because we had high hopes for what we could do, but this year we’ve revamped, we’ve reloaded, and we’re ready to make a run for state. I think we can definitely compete for a state title this year. I’m excited [about] many of the players we have, such as juniors Will Benford and Sam Catino, I’ll be playing with my brothers for the first year ever and that will be exciting too. Having it announced early and having the IHSA plan ready for a state championship, I think that it can be done safely, it can be done well.