By Kyle Daubs
It’s been a while since Mattoon has brought home the Apollo Conference champion in cross country.
Kylie Haacke is plenty aware.
Mattoon’s last conference champion came from Megan Shaffer in 2013. Last year, Haacke finished as the conference runner-up, falling to Mahomet-Seymour’s Elizabeth Sims by just 11 seconds. Sims returns as a junior, but the senior Haacke knows that she can hang with the best.
“I think I can win it,” said Haacke. “I really want to win it. It’s one of my goals. When it comes to Elizabeth, I think I can stay with her.”
What will helps is a home field advantage. The Apollo Conference championship race will be held in Charleston on the Panther Trail.
“Last year, the Apollo was in Mahomet,” said Haacke. “They had a home meet advantage because it was there. This year, it’s going to be in Charleston. I know that course, and that’s what makes it really exciting.”
Among other goals, Haacke wants to get the pesty number “19” off her back. Last year, Haacke ran a personal best 19:00.8 at the Peoria Invitational.
“I really want to break 19,” said Haacke. “When I ran a 19-flat, I was really, really mad.”
Haacke qualified for state as an individual last year for the second year in a row. Her time of 19:49.2 was 49 seconds slower compared to the last time she ran at Detweiler Park. It was a proverbial black eye on a successful cross country campaign, something Haacke is hopeful she can change.
“If I make it to state, I just have to get out my head,” said Haacke. “The last two years at state have given me a lot of experience. If I make it state, I want to run well. I’ll know more what to expect. It’s just a whole new level of competitiveness there.”
However, Haacke acknowledged that there’s a chance there could be no state meet, or any large meets due to COVID-19.
“Personally, I hope things return back to normal,” said Haacke. “I know things are going to be different at bigger meets. I’m nervous about the start line and how that will work. I’ve just been mentally preparing. It’s just hard to mentally prepare when you don’t know what the outcome is going to be.”
Haacke has aspirations to run after high school. She mentioned North Central, Cornel College in Mount Vernon, Iowa, University of St. Louis-Missouri, and “talking with EIU back and forth” as some of her options.
Despite being “overwhelmed” about college and COVID-19, Haacke is purely focused on getting ready for her senior season.
“The training has been different, but’s nice that we were able to switch phases and get back into running and talking to other people,” said Haacke. “I’ve been running with the boys once or twice a week because I know they will push me to be the best because they are faster. It’s going to be different this year, but I’m going to make the most of it.”
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