For years, Makenna McBride was synonymous with Charleston track and field. McBridge remains in Charleston but is running her freshman season at Eastern Illinois University.
A new face could take over the sprints while 11 freshmen make a young Charleston High School girls’ track team.
Given that the entire team had 16 girls in total, Charleston coach Chris Hawk is very happy with the direction of the program.
“We currently have 11 freshmen on the team this year; a large group, considering that we only had 16 total athletes last year,” said Hawk. “We are a very young team, but the increased numbers should allow us to be much more competitive across the board. I’m hoping to see big improvements in our team scores as we work to get these inexperienced girls to fill many spots that were empty last year. The ultimate goal is to just continue to improve throughout the season and have fun while we try to set as many new season bests and PRs as we can along the way.”
Junior Olivia Conn made an early impression on the Apollo Conference. At the Apollo Indoor meet, Conn finished sixth overall but was the second-fastest sprinter in the conference in the 60-meter dash. Conn challenged Lincoln’s Mallory Short with a 60-meter dash time of 8.73.
She doubled down in the long jump with a jump of 5.02 meters to finish 2nd overall. Conn challenged Mahomet-Seymour’s Lauren Burr, who won the long jump with a jump of 5.06 meters.
“She has taken a big leap forward in our first few meets so far this year, improving by nearly two feet in the long jump,” said Hawk. “As one of our fastest sprinters, we’re looking forward to utilizing her in a variety of events.”
Joining Conn in the sprinters is senior Malia Hodges. Last year, Hodges just missed out on qualifying for state after finishing third at the Tolono Sectional in the 400-meter dash with a time of 1:04.13. Hodges began the indoor season with a 6th place finish at the Apollo meet with a time of 1:07.94.
Hodges was narrowly beaten by freshman Maggie Englum, who ran a time of 1:07.63 to take fifth place overall.
“Malia Hodges has been one of our top 400 runners for the last 2 years and narrowly missed out on qualifying for State in that event last year,” said Hawk. “Maggie Englum and Samantha Fehrenbacher are both naturally talented runners that look to be a huge asset to us in everything from the 200m to 800m.”
Another freshman standout Sydney Livingston looks like she is ready to make some noise in the high jump. Livingston placed third overall with a jump of 1.42 meters.
“Sydney surprised herself in our first meet of the year, jumping four inches higher than her PR from last year,” said Hawk. “We’re looking forward to seeing how she does this season as we work to continue to improve and to add some more consistency.”
Hodges, Fehrenbacher, Englum, and Ila Richter ran the 4×400-meter relay that finished sixth. Richter returns as the team’s top distance runner. Richter placed 12th in the 1600-meter run with a time of 6:05.59. Both Richter and senior Whitley Wood qualified for the sectional during the cross-country season.
“Ila is looking to have a great senior season this year, already standing out for us in both the 800 and mile,” said Hawk. “She is being joined this year by senior XC partner Whitley Wood. I’m looking forward to seeing how well those two can push each other and how much they can pull along the rest of our distance crew.”
In throws, junior Mackensie Williams will lead the team after appearing in the state championships in wrestling. Williams placed 10th overall in the shot put with a throw of 7.90 meters. She is joined by senior Madeline Sanders and sophomore Tyreeona Nailing.
“Mackensie is our top returning thrower in both Shot and Discus, with the discus being her primary event,” said Hawk. “Madeline is also looking to have a good season, already throwing nearly two feet farther in the shot this year.”
Hawk is joined by former CHS standout athlete Sarah Gisondi, who played college soccer at Monmouth and rugby at Eastern Illinois University. Gisondi coached middle school track at Fisher last year and is in her first year teaching at CHS.