Charleston’s Ila Richter was the top Coles County runner in the Apollo Conference race held Tuesday at Lake Land College.
The senior ran 21 minutes, 24.9 seconds across the mostly grassy three-mile race to take 16th place overall while teammate Whitley Wood finished 20 seconds later.
The Trojans girls finished fifth of seven teams with 134 points.
“We didn’t run quite the times we were hoping for, but it seemed like the entire field of girls were about 30 seconds to a minute off or their season bests, and we were right in that range as well,” said Charleston coach Chris Hawk. “I was proud of the way our girls competed. We had several girls that were able to pass one or more competitors down the final stretch. That is what we want to see as we head into regionals next weekend and will need every place we can get.”
The girls’ race was blown open with heavily-favored Mount Zion repeating as champions. Sofia Munoz led the way with a time of 19:08.9 to claim third place. Ellie Fritzsche was right behind to take fifth place, while Renee Ballard (7th), Avery Sommers (8th), Camille Mavic (9th), and Brooke Doyle (10th) helped the Braves cap off a historic day.
“I’m proud of how the girls competed,” said Mount Zion coach Kelly Fox. “We struggled with practices and meets that fall at the beginning of the week. I’m not sure if it was nerves or just a long day (after a 4 day weekend), but I had my reservations about how this group would perform. They were unusually quiet and reserved before the race but ran on a mission.”
Lincoln’s Becca Heitzig easily captured the girls individual title for the third straight year, beating runner-up Ava Boyd by more than 40 seconds. Heitzig clocked in at 18:03.4, while Boyd of Mahomet was at 18:44.2.
Mattoon, which placed sixth as a team, was led by Oaklie Layton’s time of 21:47.9 for 20th place.
“All the girls ran a PR on this course from the last race held there this past Saturday,” said MHS coach Jim Miller. “We were predicted to finish last in the conference and we placed 6th. Indications are that our girls are indeed getting better.”
Mattoon placed sixth as a team and was led by Oaklie Layton’s time of 21:47.9, which was good for 20th place.
“All the girls ran a PR on this course from the last race held there this past Saturday,” said Miller. “We were predicted to finish last in the conference and we placed sixth. Indications are that our girls are indeed getting better.”
Mahomet repeats as boys champs
Andrew Walmer, meanwhile, left it up to the pack, if the team wanted to repeat as Apollo Conference champions.
The Mahomet-Seymour head coach didn’t have the stud runners at the top like last year, but he had seven runners within 30 seconds of each other to help fend off Lincoln. All seven runners finished in the top 16 as their 49 points led the charge to claim the Apollo title.
The Bulldogs led their charge with Blake Dillman finishing seventh, while the rest of the top 5 took ninth, 10th, 11, and 12th place. Ben Wallace, Henry McMurry, Kalem Kasper, and Hayden Grotelueshen all finished within 10 seconds of each other to claim the back spots of the top-12.
“Before the race, the team discussed packing up between the #5 and #15 positions during the races,” said Walmer. “If we could get our top 5 within that range, we would have a great chance of winning. The guys got out, packed it up, and held it until the end. With our top 5 from finishing 7th, 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th, they did a great job of accomplishing their goal.”
Lincoln’s Brenden Heitzig, Becca’s older brother, won the individual title with a time of 15:06.6. The next closest finisher was Julian Baker of Mount Zion at 15:43.1.
Charleston’s Blake Homann had the best finish for the Trojans at 18th, running the course in 17:34.6. The Trojans finished sixth as a team.
“We competed very well,” said Charleston coach Brian Deadmond. “A few boys had season bests. I am very proud of how they all ran.”
Mattoon, which finished seventh, was led by Aiden Hudson’s time of 20:15.5.
“Aidan Hudson ran faster this time and Beau Farris was just seconds off his best on this course,” said Miller. “This course is a tough course, but a very fine one for high school cross country.”
Mt. Zion coach excited about postseason
While Fox was ecstatic about her team’s play heading into the postseason, where a state berth is on her runners’s minds, she was even more proud of a freshman.
“Avery Sommers ran her best meet of the year,” said Fox. “All of our girls ran well but Avery ran a personal best on a course where most of the other girls were around 45 seconds off of their bests for the season. She (Avery) is going to be key heading into the postseason. The other girls have all had the experience.”
Sommer ran 20:26.3 for eight place overall.