Story and Photos by Will Simmons

Mattoon’s Maya Cook and Charleston’s Makenna McBride are headed to next week’s IHSA state finals for the second year in a row. Cook took first place in shot put and McBride was the fastest in both the 100 and 200 meters during Thursday’s Class 2A sectional meet in Tolono.

McBride not only beat out the field in her two races, but her marks for the 100 and 200 were her fastest times ever – 12.66 and 25.62 seconds, respectively. She won the 100 by .08 seconds and the 200 by .16 seconds.

“I’m proud of myself,” McBride said. “I just really wanted to go to state and try my best. I went to state in the 100 last year, but I’m glad to go in the 200. It’s my favorite race.”

Mattoon’s Maya Cook heaves the put during her second toss in the final flight Thursday.

Cook was happy to throw 10.96 meters (roughly just shy of 36 feet) to earn the top spot. Although, there was a moment when she was concerned about the competition.

“It was really tough when the girl threw a little bit further than where I had,” Cook said, “so I knew I had to step it up right there at the end, and it really worked out in my favor. So, I’m just really excited.”

Cook won the event by about 8 inches.

 Cook might’ve also kept Mattoon coach Troy Haacke a little on edge by saving her best throw for last.

“What was important was she came through on her final throw,” Haacke said. “She didn’t have her best day throwing, but a girl from Clinton had a big throw prior to that, overtook Maya, then she stepped into the ring a little more focused and came away with the win. So maybe she needed a little push today, but still, a victory and a state berth, you know, was the goal.”

Haacke said Cook put in a lot of work to get back to state, where last season she placed 12th with an 11.18-meter throw. Last year’s state 2A winner was Jayden Ulrich (Wood River) who threw 14.84 meters.

Makenna McBride races across for the victory in the 200 meters.

Cook said she trains with the runners, works on technique and perfects the smallest parts of her routine in order to stay competitive.

“When I do throw, it’s either, like, one day we’ll do shot and the next day we’ll do disc,” she said, “but, start with some powers, work on turning my foot and then, once I get comfortable with that, I’ll move into fulls and work on what I need to in there for shot and disc both.”

Charleston’s McBride doesn’t just rely on training; she says she takes a more mindful approach right before each race.

“Our coaches say it’s a mindset,” she said, “and as much as I don’t want to believe it, it really is a mindset, you know? So, I just try to be as calm as possible. Get my warmups in, and just chill.”

McBride’s mom ran track at Eastern Illinois University, so genetics might be at play as well. Coincidentally, the state finals will be at EIU’s O’Brien field, where it is held every year. However, she doesn’t anticipate it being exactly like a home-field advantage.

“I mean, I’ll be comfortable and it’s only a ten-minute drive,” McBride said. “So it’ll be fine, yeah.” 

Looking forward to the finals on May 20, Cook said she’d be happy with taking home a medal by placing at least ninth, something that eluded her a year ago.

“Indoor state, I went in ranked number two and came out number five,” Cook said, “so I wasn’t very happy about that, but I don’t know where I’m ranked at now. But I’m hoping wherever I am I can stay there and come out on top with a medal –with a medal of some sort. Whether it’s first or whether it’s ninth, I don’t really care at this point. Just give me a medal.”