By Will Simmons
Sprinter Makenna McBride of Charleston placed fifth in the girls 200 meter race with a time 25.87 seconds at the IHSA state finals on Saturday.
Maya Cook, a shot putter for Mattoon, competed in the prelims on Friday, but missed out on Saturday’s final, throwing three times for distances a few feet short of her best.
McBride and Cook were competed at the state meet last year. Even so, they said preparing mentally for their return was a challenge.
Cook said she struggled adjusting mentally to the grandness of the event, with her longest throw landing at 34 feet, 1.5 inches (10.4 meters) during Friday’s prelims, well short of her Apollo conference winning toss of 37-4.5 three weeks ago.
“Seeing the competition that I had, I knew it was gonna be a tough one coming into it,” Cook said, “but, once I got here, I really was able to see how tough it was going to be. And I think that I just got in my own head.”
Cook placed first in sectionals at Unity (Tolono) on May 12 by heaving the put 35-11.5 on her last attempt. Clinton’s Alayna Earle had recorded the longest distance of the event at 35-3.25 prior to Cook’s final throw.
“It was really tough when (Earle) threw a little bit further than where I had to,” Cook said at sectionals, “so I knew I had to step it up right there at the end.”
However, roles were reversed on Friday when Cook once again followed Earle in the order, but, this time, she couldn’t step it up. Earle threw a personal best 36-5.5 to advance to Saturday’s finals while Cook had one of her season’s worst throws.
“A lot of the girls that I saw today, I know I’ve competed against,” Cook said, “and I know that I beat them because I think I’ve only come in second, like, one or two times this season. So it was just really hard just knowing that they did better than me. But they just had a better day than me.”
Meanwhile, McBride said she found the camaraderie helped her deal with the pressure that came with making it to the 200 meter final.
“I was glad that I knew other girls,” she said, “they were all very friendly and open. No one is, like, mean or anything, so we all just try to be friendly because we’re all suffering together through this whole thing.”
Saturday’s rainy finals might have added to the suffering on the track. Lightning inear the track postponed the meet for more than an hour around noon. McBride’s 200 race was pushed back about an hour, as well, but she said the weather didn’t phase her.
“I was scared a little bit that I was gonna slip,” McBride said, “but I know I had my spikes on so it’s just mental, you know, but I’ve been training in this kind of weather all season so it didn’t really bother me.”
McBride was affected by the weather during Friday’s preliminaries with a strong wind coming from the south, helping her in the 100 meters with the wind at her back. McBride didn’t reach the finals with that run, but she did she set a personal record of 12.40 seconds. In the 200 meter prelim, she came around the turn running right into a wind that visibly slowed the runners.
“So tiring down the stretch,” McBride said. “I was, like, right up against the wind. I could feel it everywhere. (It) was horrible. Yeah, I just had to keep pushing. I couldn’t see the finish line. So I was, like: just keep fighting, just keep fighting.”
McBride fought to get the sixth best time of 26.51 seconds to advance to the finals where she bested that time by more than half a second. McBride said she felt really good after the final race of her high school career, and said she surprised herself.
“I didn’t think I had it in me,” McBride said, “but I did, so, yeah, I’m proud of myself.”