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Waukegan High School’s cheerleading disappointment at IHSA sectional

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Waukegan | Michelle LaVigne ~ Sun-Times Media

Lincolnshire { Waukegan | Michelle LaVigne ~ Sun-Times Media

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Nick Alajakis, the parental and public information officer for Waukegan public schools, explained Waukegan High School’s academic eligibility standard in this way:

“Our standards are a little more rigorous than the IHSA. You must be passing 2.5 credits, which is essentially five classes.

“Eligibility reports come out on Thursdays. If you have been deemed ineligible, you cannot compete the following week, starting on Monday.

“There are ways that the ineligibility can be lifted. The teacher can report that a student failing during the week has since gotten their grade up, but the deadline for that is that same day.”

“In this case, a student found to be ineligible on Thursday, January 17, becomes ineligible beginning Monday, January 21. That would continue through Saturday. Saturday was the day of the sectional competition, so unfortunately they would be unable to compete.

“There was no indication that the student had become eligible in time to meet the deadline for that week.”


Waukegan gave its best performance of the year, reportedly receiving scores in the 85-87 range with a one-point deduction. But those scores would not have been enough to qualify for the state finals in one of the state’s toughest sectionals (Palatine’s 88.27 was the low qualifying score). Because the team DQ’d itself, it officially was given a 0.00.

Letter from WAUKEGAN HIGH parent callS for change

This is a small portion of a letter a parent of a Waukegan High School student said she was giving to school board members to read prior to Tuesday’s regularly scheduled board meeting:

“The reason I am asking Sam Taylor to be dismissed is because Sam Taylor lacks professionalism. He is supposed to be a leader and roll (sic) model to our children. As a tax payer and parent of a varsity cheerleader, I am truly embarrassed to be part of Waukegan High School sports. As an alumni and now a parent of a student, I feel that Waukegan High School female sports have always come short to any other school in the area, due to the lack of support from the athletic director and his team (besides football, wrestling and basketball; all men’s sports). I don’t believe that Sam Taylor is doing a good job with our children. He has made it difficult for our cheer team to be successful and I’m afraid he is going to force our coach and team to quit. My daughter has been cheering since the age of 4 competitively, and all she ever wanted to be was a cheerleader for Waukegan High School. Last year, her dream came true, my daughter lived for Waukegan High School. Unfortunately, that dream is no longer alive due to the antics that Sam Taylor has pulled, and after two years of the same issues with Sam Taylor, my child has decided to quit the sport from the school that she loves dearly. I put the blame 100% on Sam Taylor and Waukegan High School for not protecting all our daughters.”

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Updated: March 2, 2013 6:39AM

If you’re looking for something that all sides of the Waukegan High School cheerleading mess can agree on, it’s this:

The ONLY time you want to be associated with the letters “DQ” is when you’re heading to Gurnee for ice cream at the popular Dairy Queen after a game.

Any other occasion, and it’s all bad.

Which is this occasion.

Last Saturday, Waukegan High School’s cheerleading squad competed at the Rolling Meadows Sectional, hoping to finish in the top five in its division (coed teams) and earn the school’s first-ever berth in the IHSA state cheerleading tournament.

That didn’t happen ... and it didn’t happen for TWO reasons.

■ The coed division at the Rolling Meadows Sectional was stacked with elite teams, and Waukegan would have had to deliver a near-flawless performance in order to advance. On Saturday afternoon, the Bulldogs were good, but not quite good enough.

■ Even if the Bulldogs HAD nailed their routine and posted a qualifying score, they still would be at home watching this weekend’s state tournament on their laptops, connected to the IHSA’s live streaming of the state finals.

The reason? The Bulldogs disqualified themselves after they performed and before a team score was given to them.

Or to be exact, the Bulldogs were disqualified by Waukegan High School athletic director Sam Taylor, who, like many school athletic directors on Saturday, made the trip to Rolling Meadows to support the squad, only to wind up the “villain,” so to speak, in a drama that has resulted in hard feelings on many sides.

Here’s where the water gets really murky.

As in, there are conflicting reports regarding what exactly happened that led to Taylor going to the scoring table immediately after Waukegan performed and telling the judges he was disqualifying his own squad for using a student-athlete who was academically ineligible to participate.

Version No. I comes courtesy of Nick Alajakis, the parental and public information officer for Waukegan public schools.

“From what we understand, the student traveled with the team to Rolling Meadows.

“There’s a lot going on at big cheerleading competitions,” he correctly noted. “The teams are in the back warming up.”

“When teams are about to take the floor, there are usually about 20-30 seconds where they are getting into position.

Our athletic director saw the student known to be ineligible. After their performance, which took place at the end of the competition, he went to the event organizers and judges and notified them that an ineligible student had participated and voluntarily disqualified the team.

“Had we not disclosed that an ineligible student had participated, the IHSA could have imposed more serious sanctions that affected all of our sports teams.

“That could have included probation that prohibited us from competing in the postseason in other sports. We don’t know if that would have happened, but steps were taken to ensure that it did not.”

Alajakis also mentioned the possibility that the ineligible squad member was inserted into the lineup only because a teammate had gotten ill.

As for Version No. 2, well, Waukegan varsity cheer coach Stacy McKie chose not to comment directly on the situation.

But sources very close to the situation offered up this scenario.

(FYI: Since McKie became Waukegan coach, the cheer program has improved from being a non-factor in competitions to where it’s now a serious threat to medal in any and all events.)

The teacher of the class the student was failing reportedly notified the head coach (McKie) and the athletic office that the student had raised his grade — which student, teacher, and coach believed allowed him to regain his eligibility for the sectional competition.

When the cheerleader in question took the mat on Saturday, neither he nor Coach McKie were aware that the athletic office still considered him ineligible.

That failure to communicate between athletic office, teacher, coach and student might be the cause of the situation.

But it triggered an outpouring of anger by people associated with members of the Waukegan cheerleading squad.

The mother of a squad member said that she was sending a letter to the school board demanding that Taylor be dismissed as athletic director.

Another mother of a Waukegan High School student wrote that, “Although I don’t have a child on the Waukegan High School cheerleading team, I do have a child that goes to WHS and I am an active supporter of the activities.

“I just wanted to make you all aware of the events that occurred at the cheerleading competition this weekend and let you personally know, as a tax-paying citizen, how EMBARRASSED AND DISGUSTED I am to be a part of Waukegan right now.

“This email is not only to make you aware, but it is also a personal request to dismiss Sam Taylor as the athletic director of Waukegan High School and hire someone that has the best interests of our students in mind.”

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