By Joe Gisondi
Nobody expected a fast course Saturday morning in the Class 2A regional cross country meet.
Not with a relentless storm overhead that stretched to Jackson, Miss., delivering a hard, cold rain that had soaked a course turning slicker and muddier by the moment and with strong, gusty winds chilling runners and nearly blowing umbrellas from spectators’ hands. Temps lingered in the upper 40s.
Mattoon assistant coach Dale Righter sort of shrugged, understandably unsure whether his runners should leave a protective team tent in order to follow their warm-up routine.
Mattoon head coach Troy Haacke, standing under a tent where times would be recorded 40 minutes later, looked out over the soggy course and said to nobody in particular: It’s getting worse.
Charleston girls coach Chris Hawk said the race was more about finding a way to endure in order to qualify as one of the top six teams for next week’s sectional meet in Decatur.
That’s pretty much what everybody did.
Besides Richland County’s Taylor David, few runners came close to running their personal best. David finished nearly three minutes ahead of the pack, remarkably running nearly the same time she had posted in the Mattoon Invitational over flat streets and in clear, 70-degree weather last month. Only one other female runner broke 20 minutes, Mt Zion’s Emma Mallory.
Charleston junior Grace Spoonhour slogged across the course in 20 minutes, 27 seconds to take fifth while teammate Megan Garrett followed 33 seconds later for 11th to help buoy the Trojans to a third-place finish, two points behind Richland County. Ila Richter fought off stitches to finish fourth for the Trojans, and 18th overall, in 22:14.
“We kind of threw out the book on hoping for confidence builders and times and things like that,” Hawk said, “and decided that we were just going to go to competing and just move on to next week. And they did a great job of that.”
Quincy Collings and Kylie Haacke finished three seconds apart to take ninth and 10th, respectively, which helped the Mattoon girls to also advance – as did both Mattoon and Charleston boys teams. Collings clocked in at 20:51, good for ninth when it came to team points since Danville did not have five runners.
Said Troy Haacke: “Today was about guts.”
Mattoon’s Brock Davee, who took fourth overall in 17:10, said the slightly hilly and winding course is difficult in good conditions. Running after the girls, said teammate Sam Ferrar, tore up the course, making it muddier and prompting runners to slip at the start.
“There were a whole lot of puddles in the race,” Davee said. “At first, everyone started dodging (them). Then, eventually, everybody didn’t care anymore.”
Ferrar, who took 11th overall in 17:54, said he never expected to run as well as he did for the fourth-place Green Wave.
“It was nice because I wasn’t focused on being tired,” Ferrar said. “I was focused on being cold.”
Josh Hoh took sixth overall in 17:20 for a Trojans squad that snagged the final boys slot, well ahead of seventh-place Decatur MacArthur. Luca Carcasi and Noah Oakley finished 20th and 24th, respectively, to bolster CHS.
“I remember running in some cold weather and snow but never as cold and as hard of a rain as this myself,” Hawk said. “But for our kids, this is a new one for them. We kept telling them that they had run in the extreme heat. This is kind of the opposite of that. Just go out and get it done and take care of business and we’ll go home.”
CLASS 2A REGIONAL MEET
QUALIFYING GIRLS TEAMS
- Mt. Zion 27
- Richland County 68
- Charleston 70
- Mattoon 112
- Centralia 119
- Effingham 126
TOPS GIRLS INDIVIDUALS
|1||Tatum David||Richland Co||17:02.01|
|2||Emma Mallory||Mt. Zion||19:58.56|
|4||Lucy Griffith||Mt. Zion||20:20.23|
|6||Lilly Griffith||Mt. Zion||20:28.36|
|7||Ashleigh Anderson||Mt. Zion||20:36.41|
|8||Sofia Munoz||Mt. Zion||20:41.66|
|13||Hope Laughlin||Richland Co||21:02.83|
|14||Taylor Fox||Mt. Zion||21:16.98|
|15||Bree Holdren||Richland Co||21:36.15|
LOCAL GIRLS TEAMS
- Centralia 42
- Richland County 54
- Mt. Zion 106
- Mattoon 109
- Danville 118
- Charleston 143
TOP BOYS INDIVIDUAL
|2||Gavin Kirby||Richland Co||16:36.35|
|5||Zach Fenton||Mt. Zion||17:17.71|
|10||Brooks Julian||Richland Co||17:46.30|
LOCAL BOYS TEAMS