By Kyle Daubs

Coles County will be represented well at the Illinois Top Times state indoor track and field meet this Saturday.

The Class 2A competition will begin at 9:05 a.m. and each of the boys and girls teams from Mattoon and Charleston will have a chance to compete. 

Leading the way will be shot put thrower in Mattoon senior Maya Cook. Cook is going into the meet with the second-best heave of 11.96 meters. She trails only Claire Allen of Sandwich, who has a throw of 11.99 meters – a difference of roughly 1.1 inches.

Joining Cook will be junior Ryleigh Grayson, who owns a best time of 1 minute, 3.94 seconds this year. Grayson is ranked 15th, but she has an outside shot of placing in the top 8 and earning a medal.

“We are very excited to have girls competing in the indoor state,” said coach Troy Haacke. “Both have worked very hard this season and it’s always an honor to achieve the qualifying time or distance to be able to compete.  Ryleigh ran an incredible race at the Clinton Last Chance meet; she ran with a lot of heart and determination.  Maya is an incredible shot put thrower, I know she is hoping to do well Saturday.  It is always a good experience to be able to compete at the elite level.”

Charleston’s Wyatt Strader also has a terrific chance to medal. Strader’s jump of 6.32 meters is tied for fourth with Marcus Garrett of Mount Vernon. This will be Strader’s first experience participating in a state meet, having just missed qualifying for last year’s IHSA state outdoor meet. 

CHS coach Josh Stice is excited about Strader’s start this spring.

“Jumping a personal best would be great but we are hoping to finish in the top 5,” said Stice. “I think Wyatt has had an incredible start to the season with jumping within 4 inches (.08 meters) of his personal best in his first meet. Compared to where he started last season, he is several steps above that and consistently has jumped over 20 feet (6.10 meters). We are very optimistic going into the outdoor season and making a strong push for the state meet at EIU.”

Among others at the meet will be Charleston sprinter Makenna McBride, who qualified for state in two events. McBride will be running in the 60 meters, where her time of 8.17 seconds is ranked 20th among 25 competitors, and the 200 meters, where her time of 27.56 is ranked 19th. 

McBride qualified for state outdoors last season at 100 meters.

“Makenna has been working hard to prepare for a great senior track season,” said Trojans coach Chris Hawk. “It’s nice to see that hard work pays off with the times she is running early on. Right now, we are just looking to see her continue to improve in the sprints to make it back to the outdoor state.  Racing against this level of competition is a great benchmark and first step to getting back there.”

For the Mattoon boys, the 4×800-meter relay of Brock Davee, Trent Hettinger, Sam Ferrar, and Quincy Hamilton will get a taste of the indoor state. The team’s time of 8:47.70 just snuck into the field of 12 teams, ranking 11th overall. Mattoon is one of three Apollo Conference 4×800 relays that made indoor state, joining Mahomet-Seymour (ninth) and Taylorville (12th). 

Davee also qualified for the 3,200-meter run but was scratched to allow him to run his leg of the race with fresh legs. This could be a preview of who owns the best 4×800 in the Apollo. 

“All of the boys making it to indoor state is an accomplishment,” said MHS coach Jarad Kimbro. “This group has high expectations for themselves and put in the time and effort necessary to have a good showing Saturday. The relay and Brock all got in as the last qualifiers so they are looking to improve on their times and move up in their placement.  They have had a good couple of weeks of practice so there is no doubt in my mind that they will all go out Saturday and have a great meet.  This meet is a fantastic way to finish the indoor season and prime us for the outdoors season.”

Schedule for Coles participants

9:05 a.m.: Wyatt Strader, long jump

9:05: Maya Cook, shot put

9:55: Makenna McBride, 60-meter

10:45: Mattoon, 4×800 relay team

12:25: Ryleigh Grayson, 400-meter

1:20: Makenna McBride, 200-meter