By Kyle Daubs

You thought Becca Heitzig was good? Wait until you see this girl. 

Heitzig, the freshman sensation who won the Apollo Conference by a wide margin, was second in her IHSA regional with a time of 18 minutes, 7 seconds – a 6-minute mile pace did not win an individual regional title. 

Why? Take a look at Rochester’s Colleen Zeibert. 

In terms of an individual race, the Class 2A Olney Sectional could feature two of the best girls runners in the state. The Rochester sophomore blew away the competition at the Jacksonville Regional with a time of 17:34.82. 

Said Mattoon coach Troy Haacke: “There are many great runners, so I’m sure it will be a great race.”

That doesn’t even include the top four runners from Chatham-Glenwood who all ran under 19 minutes, along with Bethalto Civic Memorial’s Hannah Meiser (18:32.0), Springfield’s Maddie Kim (18:45.8) and Highland’s regional champion, Waterloo freshman Angelynn Kanyuck, who ran a time of 18:38.8. 

Taylorville Regional champion Elizabeth Sims enters the meet with the 11th best time. 

So the pressure is on Mattoon’s Kylie Haacke (above) to qualify for a state berth, even if it’s unofficial. A top seven individual spot is attainable. 

“Everyone who runs on Saturday will be good,” said Troy Haacke. “Chatham looks to be an outstanding team on the girls side. Kylie is a two-time state qualifier. I believe that she will be in the hunt for state gain.”

Chatham-Glenwood appears to be the sectional favorite, followed by Highland and Mascoutah, who tied for 58 points at the regional. Waterloo was right in the mix and would be fighting for a state berth if this were a normal year. 

“In a normal year,  I would say Chatham, Mascoutah, Highland, Mahomet Seymour, Mt. Zion, Waterloo, Triad are all in the hunt,” said Waterloo coach Larry Huffman. “I’m hoping that my Waterloo girls would’ve been good enough to qualify for state.”

Apollo Conference champion Mount Zion figures to be a contender, but Mahomet-Seymour looks to be back to full strength after winning the Taylorville Regional. Coach Jama Grotelueschan sees her team as a contender for a top five spot. 

“In my opinion, Chatham looks like the clear favorite,” said Grotelueschen. “Obviously, we count on Mt. Zion to be very competitive as well.  There are several teams from the Highland Regional who seem be in contention for a top spot, although we have not run against any of them this year.  It should be an exciting day of racing on Saturday with many talented teams and individuals.”

Champaign Centennial’s Brooke Sweikar was the runner-up and finished 12 seconds ahead of Haacke. If Chatham, Mascoutah, Highland, Mount Zion, and Mahomet or Waterloo finish among the top five teams, that would leave potentially two spots open for Haacke. 

Then again, Haacke has always been a gamer, but she will have the company of the team with her this time. The Green Wave finished fourth at the regional to move on as a team. 

“We ran this course really well earlier in the season,” said Haacke. “I want our girls to go out and compete, have some fun and celebrate all of their hard work they have put into the season and how much they have improved.”

Olney (Richland County) Sectional

Where: Olney Central College, 305 N. West Street, Olney

When: Saturday, 10 a.m.