By Mike Monahan
Saturday’s IHSA Class 2A sectional will be the final high school cross country race for several local runners. Today, we feature two more of them – Mattoon’s Mackinley Beadles (above) and Charleston’s Grace Spoonhour.
It will also be the final race for MHS teammate, Tristan Grove.
Grace Spoonhour is among three varsity senior girls competing for Charleston, along with Megan Garrett and Isabella Kieffer.
The girls sectional is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday while the boys are set for 1 p.m. at Olney Central College. Both boys and girls will have eight flights starting with the No. 1 runners. The individuals not on an advancing team are next followed by the No. 2 runners, No. 3 runners, ect.
“It is fast,” said Beadles. “I feel like every time I get there I know I will run a PR. I know it is going to be quick. They flipped the course a little for the sectional. When you are in the woods, competition feels like it is right there and you fight to pick off one person and then the next one. There are a lot of twists and turns. You feel like a race car with all of the turns. It is an amazing feeling.”
Beadles helped Mattoon advance to the sectionals as a team by being the fourth place Mattoon runner and 37th overall with a time of 17:37. It was 17 seconds better than his previous best.
“He was consistent all the way through,” said Mattoon coach Troy Haacke. “He made some gutsy moves. About the one- and three-fourths marker he ran down a hill great and that gave him momentum to go uphill and he passed two runners. He has got good foot speed and is a good runner.”
Beadles, who is captain for a second year, has been running since the eighth grade.
“The first thing that drew me to cross country was the coaches and their style and patterns,” said Beadles. “They watch you and critique you and progressively want you to get better.”
As for being a captain: “It is a great honor. I didn’t feel like this was going to happen and, when it did, it felt great knowing that I was able to lead this team. I was happy they gave me the opportunity to sort of inspire and help my teammates throughout the past two years.”
As for the big improvement in the regional Beadles credited some of it to assistant coach Liz Shewmaker.
“She said: ‘Your team needs you more than ever Mac,’” said Beadles. “That is when it hit me that this is my last year. I want to see the team succeed as much as they want me to succeed. Nothing was going to stop me that day. I just had to do it.
Out on the course everything just vanished. I knew it was windy and chilly. I heard the cheers from the crowd and just the energy that fell through the atmosphere, and that helped.”
Mattoon had more runners this year thanks, in part, to soccer’s season being delayed until Feb. 15.
“The team grew due to the changes due to COVID-19, and it was a very big shock having more runners to look after and to make sure they were staying healthy and doing what they needed to do,” Beadles said. “I am just happy I got to help more athletes that did other sports as well while they were with me. It is an amazing team, and I am glad they stuck with it and worked hard even if they were not on varsity. They inspired me to be better as a leader and a teammate. They are incredible.”
Haacke, in his fourth year of coaching the boys, said it was amazing to see Beadles’ improvement and maturity since eighth grade. Beadles qualified for sectionals as an individual his sophomore year and was part of the team last year that competed in sectionals.
“Mac (Mackinley) has done a great job of organizing the kids,” said Haacke. “It takes a lot of time commitment, including the summer work, which has a lot to do with it. He took control of the kids in the summer practices and the kids ran all summer. He is vocal and has a lot of good qualities.”
Haacke said Beadles had ankle trouble last year and never got to where he wanted to be.
As for Beadles goals for Saturday? He says he always shoots for a personal record.
“I want to run better than the last race and that is just the mindset we all have,” said Beadles. “As for the team I want them to be successful, run a great race, and feel accomplished at the end of the day that they did their best.”
Spoonhour will be making her fourth straight sectional appearance, lasty year advancing to the state meet where she finished 118th of 209 runners with a time of 19:27.19.
“Cross country is fun because it is a team sport and it depends on what you do individually to help out the team,” said Spoonhour. “There is so much mental toughness to it. The feeling you get when you finish is what a great accomplishment that you and your teammates did. In other sports it is more team oriented. You don’t work unless the team does, and that is what I love about it.”
Spoonhour, who was on the eighth grade state champion basketball team, began running cross country in the seventh grade and runs track as well. She is hoping there is a track season.
“I played volleyball for two years and it got to be too much as volleyball and cross country were both in the fall. I like cross country better. I am better at it and decided to stick with it.”
Spoonhour ran a 20:25.5 in the regional and was 11th overall and the No. 2 runner for the Lady Trojans, coached by Chris Hawk.
“I mentally prepare for races the night before,” said Spoonhour. “I visualize the course, and me on the course. Your brain doesn’t know the difference between what is real and what is not.”
Spoonhour said she feels good about her final race.
“We ran the course Wednesday,” said Spoonhour. “I am excited to race Saturday.”