By Kyle Daubs

The streets have been too bare on Broadway the last two years. It’s about that time for the streets to fill up as the Mattoon Invitational will return after a one-year hiatus due to the pandemic. The longtime invite used to take place at Lake Land College before organizers made the switch to the long strip on Broadway Avenue in Mattoon that is featured for parades and the former Santa Chase Half Marathon. 

“The meet is unique in many ways,” said Mattoon coach Troy Haacke. “It is entirely on a road. It’s in the middle of town with over a mile straight away to start the race and the start and the finish line is about a mile apart.”

Another interesting component is that the girls’ race will begin at 4:45 p.m. with the boys to follow just five minutes later.  

“This creates some challenges for us since we also have both the boys and the girls race going at the same time with the boys’ race to start at 4:45 and then girls at 4:50, ” said Haacke. “We are excited to be able to run in front of such a nice crowd and exciting environment.  It takes a lot of help, from our school, administration, MPD, parents, sponsors, and the Mattoon city and park district.”

In the past, up to 18 teams have participated in this invite, which includes reigning boys champion Olney and girls champion Marshall. Outside of Mattoon, other participants include Charleston, Robinson, Taylorville, Effingham St. Anthony, Effingham, Teutopolis, Cumberland, Newton, Rantoul, Neoga, Lawrenceville, Mt. Zion, Decatur MacArthur, Decatur Eisenhower, and Hume Shiloh. 

Craig Virgin a former Mattoon Invitational Champion, IHSA champion, three-time Olympian and World Champion will return to speak with athletes and to hand out awards to the top 10 medalists. 

Among those looking to place will be Mattoon’s Brock Davee, Sam Ferrar, and Chase Armstrong. 

“The season is going well; the kids are working hard and improving every week,” said Haacke. “The heat has been a little bit of a factor, but it looks like this week will be a little cooler.  Brock Davee, Sam Ferrar, and Chase Armstrong, our three seniors, have been running 1, 2, 3 for us all season. They just medalled at Olney along with sophomore Colton Smith.  Aiden Hudson, another sophomore, ran a big PR on Thursday at the Macarthur Invitational. I believe there will be plenty of competition, but Brock will be in the hunt. He is a great competitor and likes a challenge.”