Chloe Jobe, above. (Photos/Dave & Lisa Earp)

By Kyle Daubs

Everyone expected to see Kylie Haacke qualify for this weekend’s sectional cross country meet.

The team?

That was a different story. 

The Mattoon Green Wave were on the proverbial bubble entering Saturday’s Taylorville Regional. The top five teams made it out of the sectional and the Green Wave squad, which features four new runners, was clearly on the outside looking in. 

Yet, a squad that includes three freshmen crushed all of its goals to beat Champaign Central by two points and claim the fifth and final spot. 

“To get fifth by two points is almost unheard of,” said Haacke. “We have four girls who never ran cross country before or were freshman. That’s why it was so exciting and why it’s pretty awesome.”

Two of those runners include sisters Ashley and Chloe Jobe. The older sister, Chloe came out for cross country during her junior year when volleyball was delayed due to COVID-19. 

Jobe has improved a great deal since her first race of 27 minutes, 31.8 seconds, slicing nearly five minutes off her three-mile time to 22:37.2 at the Apollo Conference meet. She cut another minute off her time in finishing 32nd overall with a time of 21:23.6 at the IHSA regional. 

“As a new member of the cross country team, it has definitely been a great experience for me,” said Chloe. “Over the past three months, I really pushed myself to train and work hard. I went from not running at all to running or working out every day. It feels good to see my hard work pay off and set another PR on Saturday.”

Ashley, a freshman, was in a similar situation, having run nearly 25 minutes in her first race this season before cutting off four minutes for a regional time of 20:53.1 that was good enough for 21st overall.

“The Taylorville course was a good race to run,” said Ashley. “There weren’t many straightaways, but lots of curves and downhills that helped me to maintain and gain speed. When approaching downhills, I used it to my advantage to pass people and gain speed.”

The real story might have been the team’s No. 4 and 5 runners, Oakley Layton and Hallee Perry, who clocked times of 22:45.8 and 22:48.6 to place 44th and 45th, respectively. 

“Ashley and Chloe both ran fantastic, but I think Oakley and Halle both stuck out to me the most,” said Haacke. “Oakley has dropped out of a few races this year. She’s only run two races before regionals. We really wanted her to finish. Then, Hallee has dealt with an injury. Her goal was to run between 23 and 24 minutes. She completely destroyed that and we needed that.”

Haacke, a two-time state qualifier, finished third overall in the regional, but she knew the four newcomers would determine if MHS advanced.

“My dad (coach Troy Haacke) said we had a shot, but it was going to require the best race out of all of us, especially the younger girls,” said Kylie Haacke. “Before we ran, I told the girls that I just wanted them to run the best they could. I had faith in all of them.”

Her teammates conversely had faith in their senior captain. 

“Having Kylie as a leader definitely made a difference,” said Ashley. “I knew coming into regionals that this was her last chance to make it to sectionals as a Wave runner. Kylie pushed me while running at practices, and her hard work and dedication has pushed us to give 110 percent at every race and practice.”

Haacke ran the first race of the day, which featured eight total. Due to the pandemic, four races for each gender were staggered to meet COVID-19 regulations. Afterward, she raced back along the course to find her teammates.

“Running all over the place was so much fun,” said Haacke. “I ran like seven miles altogether while cheering everyone on. It was great for me to watch, but I think it helped to have their captain and friend cheer on, too.”

Said Ashley. “Kylie and I had a few tears. It was so amazing knowing that I helped our girls team advance to sectionals.” 

Ashley Jobe

“The most memorable thing from Saturday was being told we were going to sectionals,” said Chloe. “Everyone cheered me throughout the whole race. The energy I got from the whole Mattoon crowd, my teammates, coaches, and family made me feel so much stronger.”

Haacke will seek to qualify for her third state meet Saturday in Olney by being one of the top seven runners among those who do not advance with a team. 

“The sectional is super competitive every year, but I think I can do it,” said Haacke. “The last two years, I have either been close to making it or close to not making it. I was the seventh individual my sophomore year and they only took the top seven. I should contend. It’s just going to take one of my best races and I will just have to push through and do it.”