Needing an extra bit of confidence, Brock Davee turned to smiling.
Heading into the warmups of the IHSA Class 2A State Cross Country Championships, the Mattoon High School senior had a goal of finishing his career All-State and in the top-25. He was coming off a poor performance at the Sectional by his standards. Finishing in the top-25 was a realistic goal, but it came with an added layer of pressure.
All Davee could do was smile.
Part of that might have been his version of dressing for success too.
“I had the new white shoes, the pink shorts, and there is no doubt I had the coolest uniform there,” said Davee. “It was a little bit of an ego boost. I was smiling.”
Davee said that the group of family and friends certainly helped him relax, but he turned to an old trick that worked for him this season. He said this time around, he didn’t feel the pressure. He felt relaxed and that he just kept smiling.
“It also helps you look a little insane to the other runners,” said Davee with a laugh. “I used to smile a lot before races. It really helps ease the pressure.”
Davee crushed the high-pressure situation racing to an all-time best time of 15:13.59 and a 13th overall finish. Davee didn’t just finish All-State, but he finished the last race of the year as the king of the Apollo Conference. Apollo champion Joseph Scheele finished outside the All-State rankings with a 50th overall finish, while fellow rival Kyle Novziger finished 27th.
The biggest surprise might have been Davee outkicking Lincoln’s Brendan Heitzig by two seconds. Heitzig had beaten Davee in every meet the two faced against each other this year.
“I knew I had it in me, but I just hadn’t displayed it yet this year, especially at Detweiler,” said Davee. “I knew there were some guys that had better times than me. Thankfully, I was showing up later in the year, which helped with my confidence. It was cool beating Brendan finally. We have been going back and forth for a while with him taking most of them from me.”
The start of the race was quick. Davee ran the first half mile in about 2:20 before the race started to settle in; however, he came in at the first mile at 4:48 in about 20th place.
“I thought the first mile was going to be in the low 4:40s and all I thought to myself was holy crap,” said Davee. “Thank God we didn’t because I would have been overloaded with shock. I was thinking we would go about 4:50.
Davee entered the back loop and said he started to feel it in his legs about halfway through the race. He said that once he came out of the back loop he could feel the pack pushing away from him and that he knew he needed to surge to get back into contention.
“Once you start going down the two-mile mark, it goes a little bit downhill,” said Davee. “The coaches told me that was where I needed to surge to get me back up to the pack. My legs were feeling heavy, but my two-mile time was pretty fast. I knew I had a shot.”
Davee came in around the two-mile mark around 10:02, which he says was the fastest two-mile time of the year. When Davee started making his way to the last uphill stretch, he was moving towards making some moves. Half a mile left turned into 500 meters and Davee said he had to “hang on for dear life.”
“I couldn’t close the way I normally do because I was pretty tired,” said Davee. “Crossing the finish line at 15:13 was pretty sick though. I know that I got passed by some people, but I passed some people too.”
Davee became the first Mattoon All-Stater since Joe Calio in 2010, who finished third overall. Davee ranks with the fourth-best finish in MHS history with his 13th place finish, trailing just Calio, Chuck Sherline (4th-1981), and Ed Ethington (7th-1953).
Looking forward, Davee said that he is hopeful this can carry into track season.
“It’s cool because it shows the hard work I have put in,” said Davee. “It’s more of a motivation boost for track because I want to put this into track season and see how far that takes me. I want to go back to Palatine and get in the fast heat. I haven’t even made state in track, so I want to make a big state appearance in at least one event. Maybe, bring another medal and some hardware as well.”