Chris Hawk (above) believes this will be the race where his Charleston girls put it all together.
Charleston’s Megan Garrett enters Saturday’s Class 2A IHSA Taylorville Regional with the top time of 18:40.3.
But Garrett ran nearly a minute slower at on the EIU Panther Trails, finishing fourth at the Apollo Conference meet. The senior clocked in at 19:54.2
Mattoon’s Kylie Haacke took second for a successive season, 32 seconds behind Lincoln’s Becca Heitzig, in 19:16 while the Mahomet-Seymour’s Elizabeth Simms, the 2019 Apollo champ, finished third overall.
“Megan has the top time going into the regional meet, but it should be a good battle between her, Kylie Haacke from Mattoon and Elizabeth Sims from Mahomet,” Hawk said. “Mahomet is the heavy favorite to win the regional, but, with a great race, I think we can make it interesting.”
Charleston, which took third in the Apollo, won’t face conference champ Mt. Zion in the regionals, where the top five teams and five individuals advance to the Class 2A Olney IHSA Sectional next week.
But runner-up Mahomet remains a favorite in Taylorville.
Along with Sims, junior Klein Powell took eight overall while freshman Ava Boyd finished 13th. Charleston will counter with All-Apollo senior Grace Spoonhour (ninth), and sophomore Ila Richter (12th).
“Barring any unforeseen injuries or sickness, I expect us to be racing at the sectional in Olney the following weekend,” said Hawk. “We have run solid, but we still haven’t seemed to have that race where we are able to put it all together. We are hoping that with a little more rest before these last meets, we can come into them with fresh legs and our best chance to see what we are capable of.”
Haacke, meanwhile, seeks a state run for the third year in a row. Mattoon coach Troy Haacke says that his team needs a strong performance to move on. The Green Wave were sixth last week in the Apollo.
“I think the regional will be a close team and individual race,” said Haacke. “Our girls team is working really hard to try and advance. We will need everyone to run really well. We had a majority of our girls run close to season best at conference. We hope to continue that at regionals and set new PRs.”
Mattoon has defeated Danville, Effingham, and Taylorville this season. Danville placed seventh at the Big 12 Conference and beat Urbana by 20 points. Erin Houpt and Allison Thompson ran under 21 minutes at a recent race at Detweiler, while Danville’s Nos. 3, 4, and No. 5 track similar times to the Green Wave.
“I think there is a shot, but it is hard to say because you never know what is going to happen, especially, for it seems, every race this year has had a different set-up with flights and timing,” said Danville coach Chris Dryer. “We are running our best times of the year right now so I think that we have a chance.”
Olney is also on the bubble, having competed well despite losing last year’s Class 2A state champion Tatum David, who moved to Florida to attend the IMG Academy.
The Tigers feature senior Hope Laughlin and sophomore Emily Nuttal, who were both All-Little Illini Conference, where Richland County placed third overall.
“I think that we can advance to sectionals as long as everyone stays healthy and out of quarantine,” said Olney coach Amy Julian. “I only have five runners, so if one is out then we have no team score or chance of advancing.”
Both Champaign schools are likely in the mix to qualify for the sectional. Champaign Central finished fifth, while Champaign Centennial finished sixth at the conference meet.
Central’s Maaike Niekerk, Kira Canales, Lula Randolph, and Kyla Canales all ran under 21:30 at the conference meet.
“I am very confident in our prospects of moving on to the sectional,” said Champaign Central coach Guthrie Hood. “We’ve improved steadily over the course of the season and are coming off a great performance at Conference where all of our varsity had season best performances.”
As for Centennial, freshman Brooklyn Sweiker placed sixth and could be a fixture at the top with Garrett, Haacke, and Sims. Her time of 18:59.6 on a fast course is the second-best time heading into the postseason.
As for individuals, Effingham’s Kiley Weaver (21:07.6) placed 17th at the Apollo race, while Urbana’s Phoebe Gerstenecker (20:37.8) and Maya Stori (20:42) were in the top 30. Rantoul freshman Angelle Wroble (19:44.43) ran to a 15th place finish at the Illinois Prairie Conference, which features state-ranked teams in Monticello, Tolono Unity, and Stanford Olympia. Wroble’s time set Rantoul’s school record.
Where: Christian County Fairgrounds, 1716 W. Spreader St.
When: 10 a.m., Saturday
Teams: Champaign Centennial, Champaign Central, Charleston, Danville, Effingham, Mahomet-Seymour), Mattoon, Richland County, Rantoul, Taylorville, Urbana