By Kyle Daubs

The Apollo Conference is one of the most underrated track and field conferences in the state. Charleston finished as the champion in 2012 while Mattoon won the title in 2017.

Even with just one crown a piece, this All-Decade boys squad is stacked with star power – numerous school records, and so many All-State selections that some performances are not even mentioned due to better finishes. 

Our framework includes an individual or season that featured the best result for each track event. We did not include the class of the athletes since the best season did not always happen during their senior season. Instead, we featured the season that the event took place, unless it was noted otherwise. 

Pole Vault: Chase Black (CHS Class of 2014): First of all, we have to acknowledge that his brother, Dayton Black, finished eighth, fifth, and second in three track seasons and owns the school-record for pole vault. However, if you take the averages and we had to pick one, we are going to go with older brother Chase. The SIU-Carbondale product finished fourth as a sophomore, third as a junior, and second as a senior – and he once owned the school record. If it weren’t for a rival out of Salem, Black might have been a state champion. 

Long Jump: Michael Smith (MHS 2017): Smith made the best leap during the decade by going 22-10 as a sophomore. He was a two-time state qualifier in the event, and finished 12th in the state as a junior. 

Triple Jump: Michael Smith (MHS 2017): Smith sweeps the decade’s jump award after figuring out he could do serious damage in triple jump. Before we start, we must give a shout out to Drake Jeffries, who finished with an 11th place finish his junior year with a jump of 42 feet, 9 1.4 inches. However, Smith smashed that feat by jumping a 43-5.75 in the state preliminaries and 45-1 in the state finals. His record jump won him an All-State medal as he placed fifth overall. 

High Jump: Ethan Grasl (MHS 2018): Grasl won the Apollo Conference in high jump in 2017 before making his way to state. His jump of 6 feet, 3 inches was the best of anyone in the county. 

Shot Put: Bart Kennel (MHS 2016): Kennel had the best overall finish out of any thrower in this event, winning the Sectional in 2016 with a throw of 49-7. He finished 15th overall in the state meet. Throughout his senior season, Kennel finished top-5 in nearly every invitational. 

Discus: Jacob Wagner (MHS 2015): Despite Peyton Smith finishing with the best overall throw (164-3 and 4th place overall in 2019), the nod goes to Wagner. The former hurler finished third in the state in 2015 and runner-up in 2014. His throws of 160-05 and 162-11 are both respectable.

Jacob Wagner came close to winning in the discuss his junior and senior seasons.
Mattoon’s Jacob Wagner finished third in the state discus in 2015 and runner-up in 2014

100 Meters: Dillian Cazley (CHS 2012) & Noah Patterson (MHS 2017): Believe it or not, there was not a single state qualifier in the 100 this past decade out of either school. Cazley, a featured member on relay teams, won the Apollo Conference in 2012 with a decade-best time of 10.91 seconds. Patterson, meanwhile, won the conference race in 2017 with a second-best time of 11.03. Both are deserving.

200 Meters: Noah Patterson (MHS 2017): Patterson was a two-time state qualifier in the event and a former Apollo Conference champion. His time of 22.61 reigns as the best overall time in the decade. Patterson finished 13th overall at state as a senior. 

400 Meters: Ky-Sean Green (CHS 2018): Green is the only runner in the county to qualify for the state meet at this distance. In 2018, Green finished as the 400 champion in the Mattoon Invitational, Newton Eagle Invite, and Big Trojan Invite. His third-place finish was highlighted by running state qualifying time. Then, at state he finished 16th overall with a time of 50.85 seconds. 

800 Meters: Nick Oakley (CHS 2018): As a senior, Oakley won nine invitationals in this event. It should be noted that rival Mitchell Kremer beat Oakley in 2017 for the Apollo Conference title. However, Oakley ran the decade’s best overall time – a school-record time of 1 minute, 54.45 seconds was just 0.5 seconds away from winning the state championship. Kremer finished in the top 10 that season while Oakley took third. 

Riley McInerney ran a 57-second final 400 meters during a hot afternoon race to win the 3,200 title in 2013.

1,600 Meters: Riley McInerney (CHS 2013): Joe Calio deserves a shoutout for finishing as a Sectional champion and placing eighth overall in 2011. However, this spot goes to the distance king. McInerney placed fourth at state as both a junior and senior. He might have won the mile his senior year, but he had used most of his energy in the 3,200-meter run. Still, he reigns supreme for this decade. 

3,200 Meters: Riley McInerney (CHS 2013): Can we really go against a state champion here? McInerney’s time of 9 minutes, 8.44 seconds is a state meet record in the event. What makes his greatness even more impressive is that McInerney won the Sectional with a time of 9:06.41. Think about this, too: he ran the final 400 meters in 57 seconds. McInerney, who went from sixth place as a junior to first as a senior, is the best distance runner Coles County has ever seen. 

110 Hurdles: Justus Donaldson (MHS 2018): Donaldson was the hurdle king, winning the Apollo Conference two times. He was a two-time state qualifier who ran a decade-best 15.15 seconds on his way to state. As a senior, he finished 17th overall in the state.

300 Hurdles: Justus Donaldson (MHS 2018): Donaldson swept the hurdle events as he is the only state qualifier in the event. His time of 41 seconds was runner-up in the Sectional and a season best. He finished as the conference runner up as a junior and senior. In 2017, he placed 22nd overall.

4×100 Meter Relay: Truston Winnett, LJ Welsh, Dillian Cazley, & Josh Cazley (CHS 2012): Their time of 43.13 is a school record and beat multiple 4×100 talented relay teams in the last decade. All four sprinters played a key role in helping Charleston win its first conference title in nearly 10 years, winning this and other events. FYI: They all also played football together.

4×200 Meter Relay: Aaron Sowers, Gary Trepanier, Jake Gates, Tyrus Moss (MHS 2012): The all-senior relay was the best, clocking 1:29.74 to finish eighth and earn All-State honors. No team has come close to the times by these Big 12 Conference champions and Sectional champions.

4×400 Meter Relay: Dayton Black, Josh Hoh, Ky-Sean Green, Nick Oakley (CHS 2018): The Sectional Champion relay posted the best overall time of the decade at 3 minutes, 27.99 seconds. At the state meet, Austin Ames ran in place of Oakley. Mattoon featured a state qualifying 4X400 relay as well, but this CHS team beat their mark by seven seconds. This relay came together towards the end of the season, and capitalized at the right moment.

4×800 Meter Relay: Austin Epperson, Mitchell Kremer, Greg Thorne, & Jake Ghere (MHS 2017): The squad was only one of two 4×800 relay teams to qualify for the state meet. The Apollo Conference champions placed runner-up in the Sectional and ran the best overall relay time of 8:13.39.