By Kyle Daubs
Technically speaking, Brock Davee qualified for state last year.
When COVID-19 wiped away all state finals in the fall, winter, and spring sports season, the cross country postseason consisted of a regional and sectional tournament. The Green Wave qualified as a team last year, while Davee was invited individually as a state qualifier by Shazam, who held an unofficial state meet.
After winning the Class 2A Olney Regional, Davee believes this is his chance to take the asterisk next to his name and make it official.
“I haven’t made it to state in cross country since middle school,” said Davee. “I guess Shazam counts, but it was a fake state. I didn’t perform well at it anyways. Last year, I was struggling a little bit with an injury. I think I can do it this year.”
Davee had entered the regional with the fifth-best overall time in the state of Illinois, but more importantly, he defeated a longtime rival. Davee defeated Mahomet-Seymour’s Kyle Novziger at the Apollo Conference Championships but lost out on the individual title to Joseph Scheele. Both runners go way back with Davee, who has developed a bit of a rivalry with both runners.
“Kyle and I have raced each other a lot since middle school,” said Davee. “We have always had a great back and forth. As for Joe, there are times I have beat him, but it wasn’t anything important. He always kicks my butt in big races.”
Despite maybe going 0-for-whatever in the head-to-head battles, Davee never shied away from having confidence in himself leading up to the meet.
“I knew I could win it,” said Davee. “I just had to do the right things leading up to the week. ”
Davee said that this was the first week of all season that he didn’t lift. Davee said that he has kept up a consistent weight lifting regiment during the season because he “fell in love” with lifting over the summer. While a little bit of rest and relaxation helped the physical side of things, Davee said the mental edge was aided by having all the coaches back.
At times, it has been just head coach Troy Haake “manning the fort.” Assistant coach Liz Schumacher was out with an ailment, but was back for the week, while assistant coach Dale Righter was able to find some time away from his busy schedule. Davee said it felt “pretty great” to have the whole gang back together leading up to the Regional.
“The last week of practice was a lot of fun,” said Davee. “We had all the coaches back together. We did a lot of fun stuff at practice, which I think helped me win the race in the end. I did a lot of smart stuff leading up to it. Drank a lot of water. We had a big pasta party the night before. It was a lot of great food and great fun.”
The real fun was the battle between Davee and Scheele, who battled head to head for the championship title. The race started off with a 4:50 first mile. Davee said the two stuck together until the last 1,400 meters. Davee said that he knew he was going to have to surge once he got into the wooded area of the course because it was difficult to pass with the tight turns.
With 800 meters to go, Davee had a 10-meter lead. Then Scheele passed him.
“I knew I was a little out of it, but I knew that I could out-kick him if it came down to it,” said Davee. “I could hear people saying that Joe was smiling once he passed and that dropped my self-esteem a little bit. That meant he felt really good, but the thing is he just stopped pulling away.”
Davee said that with about 400 meters left to go, he was able to take three to four good steps heading into the downhill to get his kick going. Once he felt the momentum, it was game over.
“I started gaining back on him. With about 150 meters, I was about six feet past him and I knew he wasn’t smiling anymore, so I just surged forward and threw up the G for the Green Wave,” said Davee. “I think this is the first time I got him in a big race.”
If that wasn’t enough, the day got even better when Mattoon found out the team clinched the sixth and final spot to qualify as a team for sectionals. Mattoon beat out seventh-place finisher, Rantoul, by five points.
Before the season, Mattoon knew they were in a tough position. All-Apollo runner Trent Hettinger returned to soccer, as well as top runner Quincy Hamilton. Mac Beadles was lost to graduation, which led Davee and Sam Ferrar as the team’s lone returning top runners. With three seniors, the team was young, which is why Davee believes that making the next level of the postseason as a team is even more impressive than last year.
“Honestly, I think it’s just as rewarding this year,” said Davee. “It’s been a lot of fun this year. We had a lot of guys step up. It’s pretty cool the whole team is going considering how young we are. Everyone stepped up. Sam passed someone at the end. Colton Smith didn’t get passed. Chase ran a huge PR. Everyone ran well.”
While making it as a team is a nice accomplishment. Having some friends to help Davee get over the hump to qualify as an individual will be a nice addition too.
“I’m really excited,” said Davee. “I get to race kids that are really good. Alex Partlow out of Carbondale is going to be fun to race with. There’s a kid from Waterloo that will be tough. Everyone in the Sectional is coming in with some really good times from the Regional. The course at Decatur is really fast. It’s going to be exciting. I hope I can get through.”