They’re off and running.
The Lakeland School Board voted unanimously Tuesday to send its cross country team to the state championship despite administration recommendations that team members stay home.
“We landslided it,” said jubilant senior runner Reid Houck.
The board’s decision came on the heels of a petition drive by the 13-member team, which gathered more than 400 signatures from sympathetic Rathdrum residents.
The eight boys and five girls on the Hawks team placed third in this year’s district cross country meet, which qualifies them for a berth in the state championship meet Saturday in Buhl. But the district’s athletic guidelines recommend that only teams that place first or second in districts be allowed to travel to state championships.
When administrators turned a deaf ear to the students’ travel request, team members began a petition drive outside the Rathdrum IGA, then went door-to-door drumming up support.
Tuesday night, Houck, who organized the drive, brought tears to the eyes of people in the audience with his heartfelt plea to the board.
“I got up there and broke into tears,” Houck said. “I told it straight from the heart.”
The board also agreed to change the district’s policy and in the future will help the high school pay for third-place teams to attend tournaments.
“We’ll augment the high school athletic budget if necessary,” said board chairman William Reese.
At the meeting’s close, Houck stood up and said “Mr. Reese, sir, may I have permission to cheer?” Reese nodded, and parents and team members in the room began hugging and hollering.
The team will leave Thursday on a chartered bus that the district will share with the Post Falls School District, which also is attending the championship.
Parents of team members offered to help defray some of the trip’s costs.
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