Most cross country coaches expect Taylorville’s Chris Cherry to defend his boys title at the Apollo Conference meet Tuesday at EIU’s Panther Trail.

But don’t count out Mattoon’s Brock Davee (above), who broke 16 minutes last Thursday on Senior Night for the second time this season.

Cherry, who won the boys race last year with a time of 15 minutes, 54.7 seconds, has broken 16 minutes three times this season with a best of 15:50.

“He (Cherry) is one of the top returning runners from the state,” said Mahomet-Seymour coach Neal Garrison. “He is a very intense and determined runner.”

Mahomet-Seymour’s Kyle Nofziger, meanwhile, has posted the fastest time this season, a 15:31.9 at an Urbana meet on Oct. 3.

Said Charleston coach Greg Rogers: “It should be a good race for the individual title.”

Davee, a junior, ran 15:52.7 at the Charleston Invite a month ago and then clocked 15:58 last Thursday in a quad meet at Meadowview Golf Course.

Davee is among several local runners who likely have a chance to earn all-conference honors, along with teammates Trent Hettinger, who ran 16:29.8, and Tyler Warner, who went 16:50.9, last Thursday.

Charleston’s Luca Carcasi, who ran 17:09 in that meet, also could challenge for conference honors. He will have to battle Mount Zion freshman Julian Baker and Effingham sophomore Andy Donaldson, who have both bested him on two occasions by marginal times.

“His training has been going very well lately,” Rogers said, “and I think he is ready to have a few breakout races to finish out the season.”

Buoyed by Davee, Hettinger and Warner, Mattoon could challenge Mahomet-Seymour for the team title. The Bulldogs won the Charleston Invite in September, placing five runners in the top 18 – Nofziger, Joseph Scheele, Jonah Singer, Taylor Fan, and Hayden Grotelueschen. Mattoon, though, now has five runners who can run inside Singer’s 17:20 clocking at the Invite. Quincy Hamilton and Brandon Creel ran 17:00 and 17:15, respectively, last week, making them all-conference candidates as well.

“As always, the conference is very competitive. So many good teams and good runners,” said Mattoon coach Troy Haacke. “Both our boys and girls teams have been working really hard, and we are extremely excited to see what they can do on race day.”

Garrison, who has coached two state championships and two state runner-ups, refuses to call his team a favorite. “I believe Mt. Zion, Taylorville, Charleston, and Mahomet have good chances of winning the conference team title,” he said. “I have a ton of respect for all the teams in our conference so I wouldn’t count any team out.”  

Some other Apollo contenders:

TAYLORVILLE: Outside of Cherry, the team has four runners who can run either sub-18 minutes or faster. Junior Evan Morgan and freshman Owen Morgan have consistently hovered around 17:30 for three miles. “I think it will be very close, but Taylorville may be at the top,” said Lincoln coach Andrew Hite. “Our guys have been improving each time we go out there. They have  been working hard, so I know they are ready to get out there and show what they can do at the Apollo Conference meet.”

LINCOLN: Sophomore Brendan Heitzig, who has clocked a time of 16:16.6, paces the Railsplitters. Heitzig should contend for a top 10 spot.