Why do some state champs get free rings and others don’t?

Alexa Jurado, Staff Writer

The District 155 co-op gymnastics team went to state a couple of weeks ago and won the state title, with our Cary-Grove representatives placing individually in their events.

While every member of the all-district team shares in the victory, they aren’t all necessarily rewarded equally. Depending on which school the gymnasts attend, they may receive a state championship ring free of charge.

This came as a surprise to junior Nicole Baars, who won the state championship in the uneven bars.

“I think the sports that have all the schools on one team should be treated equally,” she said. “Even though only one school has the name of the team, the people on the team are from all schools, each representing the school they go to. For the sports that don’t have all schools on one team, it is up to the school what they do for the team. They should get us rings with a blue gem in it showing that we are from Cary-Grove. We won even though we represent PR when we compete.”

While Baars is upset that she won’t receive the free ring her PR teammates receive, she is very appreciative of athletic director Mr. Altendorf for his involvement in the team.

“The athletic director we have is very interested in how we do, unlike some of the other schools,” Baars said. As it turns out, Mr. Altendorf has good reason to have the gymnasts purchase their own state rings.

“The important thing to realize is if the athletic department purchases a ring for one state champion, the expectation will be that the athletic department purchases rings for all state champions,” he said. This would mean a lot of money for rings that would impact other financial decisions the athletics department needs to make.

“I have a quote for 24 volleyballs currently sitting on my desk for $834.00,” Mr. Altendorf said. “Let’s say state champ rings cost $150 on the low end and $300 on the high end. Cary-Grove has five gymnasts, meaning the athletic department would spend [at least] $750. The question becomes, ‘What is the best use of that $750?  Buy volleyballs or spend the money on rings for gymnasts?’”

Not only is it not practical, but the IHSA only permits a maximum of $75 be spent on a trophy or prize per athlete per contest. This means that purchasing a $150 state ring for an athlete would break this rule.

“Since the IHSA allows a limit of $75, last year we would have spent approximately $500 on rings,” Mr. Altendorf said. “In 2006, when we had a state volleyball and football championship, the cost would have been approximately $7,000.”

Gymnast Jessica Bender said that last year, athletes on the team representing Prairie Ridge received free rings. But it was not the school who had bought these rings.

“We are not purchasing rings for any State Champion teams. Students are to bear the costs of such items,” said Prairie Ridge’s athletic director, Mark Gilbert.

Gymnastics team manager and PR senior Katherine Bergeron confirmed that they did indeed receive free rings last year, but she said it was the booster club that provided them rather than the school.

Mr. Altendorf made clear that there is no bias involved in state purchases depending on the sports represented. The gymnasts have to buy their own state rings, just as football players have to buy their own state sweatshirts.

Cary-Grove is not buying their athletes state rings this year, but they haven’t in the past, either. Mr. Altendorf said there are so many things that are important in the athletic department, so there is not much leeway for expenses such as rings. It’s not that rings are being withheld, rather there is not room for them.

“As the person responsible for athletic expenditures, I feel I should prioritize needs vs. wants,” he said. “Uniforms, equipment and facilities are the priority for me. I would love to buy the extras like state champion rings, but I have to justify spending that money when we have uniform needs, courts that need repair, track surface in need of repair, the list goes on and on.”

Cary-Grove Booster Club President Mrs. Hartke also has these things in mind.

“We haven’t considered purchasing things for teams that make or win state titles,” she said. “We support all students at Cary-Grove and try to raise money with that spirit in mind. Our main focus is to support as many students at Cary-Grove as possible.  We do not donate money towards items that are not intended to remain at Cary-Grove.”

Mr. Altendorf wants athletes to know that rewards and prizes aren’t everything.

“My hope is that our athletes play a sport for intrinsic reasons: because they love the game, they love competition, and not because of a trophy or ring,” he said.

Whether other schools are purchasing state rings for their students or not, the Cary-Grove gymnasts, and the gymnastics team as a whole, should be proud of their accomplishments.