By Kylie Haacke

Once upon a time, leaving this area seemed like the best decision.

In the end, though, there was no place like home for Kylie Haacke. 

The Mattoon High School senior and three-time cross country state qualifier has decided she will continue her college career in running at Eastern Illinois University. 

Haacke had interest from North Central, Cornel College in Mount Vernon, Iowa and the University of St. Louis-Missouri, but she elected to stay in Coles County. 

“Coach Erin Howarth started talking to me after my junior cross country season and some of the track season,” said Haacke. “We started talking in March and have been emailing back and forth ever since. I wasn’t too sure about EIU at first. I wanted to get out of Coles county, but after going to different places near and far I figured out that EIU was the one. I think it was the best fit for me for the first four years of college. I am very confident and happy with my decision.”

Howarth, the head coach for EIU cross country, is a two-time Ohio Valley Conference Coach of the Year for the women, including the most recent season. Howarth led the EIU women to an OVC title in 2011.

Haacke cited to her as a major influence. 

“I committed to EIU because of the program,” said Haacke. “They have a great cross country and track program. Their teams are super close and tight. I also committed because of coach Erin Howarth. She is great and super awesome. I think she is going to help me unlock a new level of running.”

Along with some sound advice from Howard, Haacke likes the academic side as well. She plans to major in physical therapy. 

“Coach Howarth once told me to picture myself at each college as just a student without running, and the only college or university I could see myself at was Eastern,” said Haacke. “Of course, the academic side helps. EIU has pre-physical therapy, which is what I want to do. I know that I will be able to get all the education I need and they will help me prepare and get into a graduate school.”

Haacke is a four-time Apollo Conference selection in cross country. Her season-best was a time of 19 minutes, 3.2 seconds at a Mattoon quad meet. She finished the season with three individual wins, three runner-up finishes, and a third-place finish with tough competition at the Charleston Invitational and the Taylorville Regional. 

In 2019, Haacke finished as the conference runner-up, falling to Mahomet-Seymour’s Elizabeth Sims by just 11-seconds. In 2020, Haacke defeated her conference rival, Megan Garrett, to take second once again. 

Haacke is hopeful to make an impact in her final track season, but for now, she can relish in the fact that she will be a Division I athlete. She joins the ranks of former MHS runners in Cassy Shaffer and Whitney Manifor who both ran for EIU. 

“Being a college runner means so much,” said Haacke. “It’s a whole new opportunity full of exciting, new experiences. More improvement, and a chance to better me at the next level. It means so much I can’t put it into words. I am just happy that I will get to run for, and be a part of, an amazing program.”

Haacke had plenty of people to thank from past to present coaches, including her father Troy who coached her all four years in high school for cross country, basketball and track. 

“I would like to thank my coaches, my coach dad, Coach Schumacher, and Coach Dale,” said Kylie Haacke. “All of my teammate’s boys and girls from the last four years from the cross county, basketball, and track. I would name all of them, if I could. I would also like to thank all of my family, my grandparents, aunts, uncles, my mom, and my siblings.” 

“Every single person on this list has helped me get to where I am today,” continued Haacke. “I really could not have done it without them. Everyone has had faith in me and believed and supported me throughout my entire career. I would also like to thank Coach Howarth for giving me this amazing opportunity to come and run for her. and to my future teammates, thank you for being so welcoming.”

Haacke is preparing for the spring track season. 

“I think I will make them better by always working hard and trying to make myself and my teammates better,” said Haacke. “I’m super competitive and determined to always do my best and to try and improve.”