A middle school race precedes the larger high school meet at 8 a.m.

For the first time in two weeks, Coles County will get to run against some unfamiliar opponents. 

Last week, both the Mattoon and Charleston boys and girls cross country teams faced off against each other twice. With the help of a staggered start, the Trojans are going to be able to pull off their yearly Charleston Invite. 

Both teams will get to see Danville, Richland County (Olney), Effingham, Mahomet-Seymour, Mattoon, Mt. Zion, Newton, Shelbyville, St. Joseph-Ogden, Sullivan, Urbana, Cumberland County Co-Op, and Champaign Central come to town. 

BOYS

In the boys’ race, Class 1A powerhouse St. Joseph-Ogden and reigning Apollo Conference champion Mahomet-Seymour appear to be the favorites to win the invite. St. Joe placed 18th in the state as a team and brings back senior Brandon Mattesey, who clocked a 15:48 at state last year.

In Class 2A, the Bulldogs placed 11th as a team and bring back a slew of quality runners that includes the senior trio of Nick Mies (15:49 at state), Kyle Nofziger (15:54), and Jonah Singer (16:09). 

“It is an honor that other coaches think our team might win,” said Mahomet-Seymour coach Neal Garrison. “There are so many strong cross country programs with experienced coaches at the invite.  It will really just be fun to see many of these coaches and watch how well they have gotten their runners to run.”

Urbana, the CHS Invite reigning champion, beat Mahomet-Seymour by just nine points in 2019. Junior Sam Lambert finished fourth and could contend for an individual championship while junior Park Mitchell placed in the top 10.

“I’m excited to see who emerges as the top runners in the area,” said CHS coach Greg Rogers. “This will be our first chance to get a good look at some talent.  Brock Davee of Mattoon had an impressive run at the Charleston Triangular, so I expect he will look to compete with the top runners from Mahomet-Seymour and St. Joseph-Ogden.”

Davee, who just missed out on state last year, has started strong, running the three-mile EIU’s Panther Trail in 16 minutes, 40.87 seconds ast week. He will face off against state qualifiers Gavin Kirby of Olney and Alex Ahmari of Champaign Central. 

“I am always excited to see the kids get out and compete. This is a great meet on a great course and there will be great competition,” said MHS coach Troy Haacke. “It will give a chance to see where we are at.” 

Rogers is hopeful that his young Charleston squad can further improve. Junior Luca Carcasi ran 18:10 last Thursday on the Panther Trail. 

“Among Charleston runners, Luca Carcasi will have a great opportunity to see where he stacks up against other teams’ top runners. He’s confident he can compete near the top,” said Rogers. “Mason Reeley should be out there to prove himself among the pack of top runners in the first flight, and Adam Rudibaugh has already learned a lot about high school racing and will have a unique opportunity to compete with the other teams’ number three and four runners. Charleston has a hard-working and determined group of boys who will no-doubt improve with every meet.”

Sam Ferrar (18:06), Trent Hettinger (18:22), and Quincy Hamilton (18:35) bolster the Green Wave squad.

“I want to see the kids improve and drop time, stay focused and be competitive,” said Haacke. “I will be watching the conference teams and see how we compare.”

GIRLS

The girls’ competition will feature an abundance of quality teams.

In Class 1A, St. Joseph-Ogden finished seventh as a team. Despite losing two seniors, juniors Ava Knapp and Ashlyn Lannert return after running times of 19:04 and 19:06, respectively, at the state meet. 

Cumberland senior Jasmyn Dittamore returns after running a 19:13 at the state meet. But few runners will be even be close to Richland County’s Tatum David, who set a Class 2A state meet record time of 16:04. 

Even the guys’ coaches are excited. 

“This meet excites me because it is probably the largest meet that we will get to compete in this year,” said Rogers. “And, we get to host it on our home course.”

In Class 2A,  Mahomet Seymour appears to be the favorites after finishing 18th at the state meet last season. Apollo Conference champion Elizabeth Simms returns to lead the charge, running a personal-best 19:09 last season. Junior teammate Klein Powell ran a 19:19 at the state meet. 

“Our girls are excited to run on a familiar course with some good competition,” said Mahomet-Seymour coach Jama Grotelueschen. “We have only had one meet this year which was on a tough course we had never run.  This race at EIU will help us gauge where we are at.”

Right behind in contention could be an Apollo Conference member in Mount Zion. The Lady Braves finished 15th at state meet but lost senior Taylor Fox to graduation. The team returns junior Ashleigh Anderson (19:12) and senior Lucy Griffith (19:14), who fielded great showings at Peoria last year. 

However, Mount Zion will be one member short on Saturday.

“I think we will be in contention for the win but Mahomet is also a tough opponent,” said Mount Zion coach Kelly Fox. “We will be without our number one runner as she is in a 14-day quarantine due to contact tracing within our school. She doesn’t have any symptoms and is heartbroken that she will not be able to participate but our girls go deep, and I’m sure they will pull together to make up for her absence.”

Charleston senior Megan Garrett appears healthy for the first time in two years. Last week, Garrett recorded a time of 19:57 on the Panther Trail to win the tri-meet while teammate Grace Spoonhour took third in a 21:31. 

Both members have run at the state meet, while two-time state qualifier, Mattoon’s Kylie Haacke, was second to Garrett by running the course in 20:25. 

“I think given our situation on social distancing it is the best we can do,” said Haacke. “There should still be enough runners in each heat to be competitive, it will be a little harder from a coaching standpoint to keep track of everything, but that is OK.”

Two notable names will be missed this year. Shelbyville’s Ailey Mitchell, who finished as an All-State recipient, runs at Illinois State now. At Urbana, Olivia Rosenstein, who finished fourth in the Class 2A meet, also graduated. However, fans can keep an eye on junior Celia Barbieri, who ran a time of 18:22 at the state meet. 

With a forecast of 73 degrees and 10 mph winds, it could be a great day to race. 

“We are very excited to run in our first invite,” said Fox ”I’m looking for the girls to have solid performances with the work that they’ve put in over the summer. A nice cooler day will also help tremendously. Our first meet was in the afternoon heat and humidity.”

STAGGERED START

It’s going to be a long day for the Charleston crew running the event (Schedule Below). However, the coaches are grateful for the community to pull of this invitational. Due to the pandemic, many invites are canceled, which means this could be one of the few times runners get to run against a lot of teams. 

“With a meet as large as this, staggering the races made the most sense to us when formatting the meet,” said Rogers. “We are required to follow the IHSA cross country guidance, and staggering is one of the recommended practices for meet management.  The staggered starts and the pairing of each team’s runners provide something different and exciting, so we wanted to make the most of the situation that we’re in.”

“I am super grateful that the Charleston coaches were not only willing to run the invitational but for all the amount of time and energy they put into organizing this meet,” said Garrison. “It was a huge undertaking on their part with trying to meet all the health safety guidelines while trying to allow so many runners from so many teams get an opportunity to run.  I can’t thank them enough. “I really like Charleston’s course and the people that run the meet. It is so well organized and the Charleston people really are just great kind-hearted souls.  The course was created by the legendary Coach Tom Woodall in such a way that it is both challenging and can still bring fast times.”

“We are thrilled to be running at Charleston this weekend,” said Grotelueschen. “It will be one of our biggest meets this season due to all of the restrictions.  We can’t thank Charleston and EIU enough for their creative and diligent work to put on a  meet this size and still comply with all of the parameters.”

SCHEDULE

In adherence to the IHSA cross country guidance, the format of this Invitational will follow a flighted race schedule.

9 a.m.: each team’s #1 and #2 girls

9:10: each team’s #3 and #4 girls

9:20: each team’s #5 and #6 girls

9:30: each team’s #7 and #8 girls

Short break to allow timer to finish flights and compile times

10 a.m.: each team’s #1 and #2 boys

10:10: each team’s #3 and #4 boys

10:20: each team’s #5 and #6 boys

10:30: each team’s #7 and #8 boys

Short break to allow timer to finish flights and compile times

11 a.m.: JV girls (each team is allowed to enter 2 runners)

11:4 a.m.: JV boys (each team is allowed to enter 2 runners)

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