Mattoon’s Kylie Haacke (above) is among several local athletes who likely will advance into sectional golf and cross country championships now allowed by the IHSA.

By Kyle Daubs

Like their athletes, local coaches are quite pleased by the IHSA’s decision to extend both cross country and golf past regionals to sectionals.

It’s a move that many hope could lead to state championships. That all depends on the ongoing COVID-19 situation.

At the very least, sectionals will provide a sense of who could at least reach a state event.

“Yes, it is exciting,” said CHS boys cross country coach Greg Rogers. “Our kids deserve something to set our goals on so it’s a great motivator.”

Charleston’s Luca Carcasi figured to be a contender to move onto the Sectional as an individual qualifier. Mattoon’s Kylie Haacke, a two-time state qualifier, as an individual figured to be in the mix, as well as Mattoon junior Brock Davee. 

In other sports, MHS golfer Callan Haldorsen qualified for the Sectional last season and was hopeful to contend for a state berth. Despite not knowing if a state series will be played, knowing that Haldorsen will have closure was something that makes the senior golfer excited about pressing forward. 

“This made Callan very happy,” said MHS girls golf coach Natalie Ambuehl. “I am glad there is now an opportunity to advance, I don’t feel there is a chance for a State to happen this year. Unfortunate for so many reasons, but here we are.”

In golf, the top two teams and top four individuals in each regional will advance to the Sectional.

In cross country, the top five teams will advance, while the top five individuals will advance. Golf sectionals are set for the week of Oct. 12-17, while cross country sectionals are slated for Oct. 29-31. Host sites and meet dates are still being finalized. 

“I’m very pleased that my team will have the opportunity to earn a place in the sectional this year,” said CHS girls golf coach Todd Keating. “Of all the sports, golf seems to be the one in which it would be easiest to take any needed precautions.”

Keating’s girls golf team has been consistent and could end their season as a state qualifier. Led by Hannah Harpster, the Apollo Conference contenders will be able to know if their early season goal will be accomplished. 

That also includes the Mattoon boys team, which has been on a tear. Led by three seniors, this will give the team at least one more week to compete. 

“We are excited for the opportunity to continue our season, and I am especially excited for my seniors,” said MHS boys golf coach Bill Behrends. “They have put so much into the program over the past four years, and they deserve this opportunity.”

As for other seniors, Charleston’s Megan Garrett and Grace Spoonhour, both who have qualified for the state cross country meet in the past, are trying to lead a CHS cross country team to a state berth. 

“The CHS girls XC team was very excited to hear the news today that we now have the chance to extend our season by at least another week,” said CHS girls cross country coach Chris Hawk. “While I’m doubtful that a state meet will be possible, I didn’t expect this news either, so we will just take what we can get and “run with it”.  

In the end, all coaches have come to a consensus that nobody is going to be upset about one more week of play. 

“It should add some excitement to the state series that would have been a little of a letdown to end at the Regional level,” said Hawk. “This will at least give teams and individuals a chance to get to see if they would have been state qualifiers.”