After a dominating finish at the Apollo Conference, the feel around the league is Mount Zion and everybody else. 

“Mount Zion scored more than 100 points higher than the second-place team last year,” said Charleston coach Chris Hawk. “And they look to be nearly as strong or stronger this year.”

The team will get to showcase their talents as the Apollo Conference Indoor Championships are set for today. Mount Zion scored 182 points at the outdoor championships, which was 103 more points than runner-up Effingham’s 79 points. Mount Zion did lose two of the best overall athletes though. 

That included All-State sprinters and 100-meter, 200-meter, and 400-meter individual champion Sarah Addai. Morgan Pilate, the 110-hurdles champion, also graduated, who was also the individual champion in the long and triple jump. 

Despite losing six individual champions between two runners, there is a surplus of talent returning for the Braves. That includes the 300-meter hurdles champion in senior Alaina Barr, who was 0.03 seconds away from breaking 50 seconds. Teammate Lydia Thump, a junior, neatly beat Barr but was 0.3 seconds behind. 

At the Apollo meet, the Braves won all four relays. On those relays, only one senior graduated from each relay, so the team figures to potentially have a chance to sweep all four relays for a second straight year. 

“The competition will likely be for second place, and I hope we are in the mix,” said Hawk. 

Charleston featured a top sprinter in the 100 and 200-meter dashes in senior Makenna McBride, who was the conference runner-up. With Addai out of the picture, McBridge could be an Apollo champion. 

In the 800-meter and 1600-meter runs, Megan Garrett is out of the mix, but Lincoln’s Becca Heitzig will emerge as the easy favorite. Heitzig won the 800-meter crown as a freshman last year and lost to Garrett by just two seconds in the mile. With Kylie Haacke (Mattoon) and Grace Spoonhour (Charleston) out of the 3200-meter run, that could open the door for Mahomet-Seymour’s Elizabeth Sims. 

In the field events, Mount Zion returns the conference’s top high jumper. Senior Rhiannon Marshall was the conference champ last year, while senior teammate Hannah Sago could be in the mix. Sophomore Hillary Owens of Mount Zion placed runner-up in the long jump and will emerge as an early favorite, while Lincoln’s Reese McCuan returns as the favorite in the triple jump. 

In the throws, Morgan Weaver of Mattoon graduated and was the conference winner. Maya Cook helped Mattoon sweep the throws by winning the Apollo in the shot put. Cook, along with Effingham’s Abigail Adams and Kate Zeigler, and Mount Zion’s Chloe Karnes should be contenders in both throws. 

Cook figures to be Mattoon’s leading member to contend for a conference crown given the team’s youth. Out of the 34 girls on the team, just three are seniors, and 24 are underclassmen. 

“We are very young this year with many new girls out and a large freshman class,” said Mattoon coach Troy Haacke. “For almost all of the girls the Charleston Indoor track meet was their first indoor meet and for many, their first track meets of any kind.  The last two springs have been cut short and for the middle school even shorter.  So we are slowing things down, teaching, and trying to build them up as the season goes on.  I have a lot to learn about this team, but I am very excited for them and for the improvements they will make throughout the season.”