MATTOON — The Mattoon High School cross country program is sort of under new leadership this season. Former coach McLain Schaefer left the program in the spring to take an assistant principal position in Effingham, but a familiar face is still helping the programs.
Varsity girls’ track coach Troy Haacke, who has also spent a good amount of time as an assistant coach for the cross country teams, now holds the head coach title for cross country.
Haacke has a big roster, too, as the program has a total of 43 boys and girls combined in the program.
“We are off and rolling with our first meet on Monday against Charleston,” Haacke said. “I am excited to be coaching the boys and girls cross country teams this year. We have great numbers. The teams are working hard, knowing that the competition in the conference will be very good. My years as an assistant have been important in learning the courses and the ways of cross country.”
The Mattoon boys’ cross country team missed out on qualifying for state by one spot and have a good number of returners back. The Green Wave did graduate David Thompson and Gavin Prior, but Mitch Kremer, Mattoon’s top runner last season, returns after qualifying for state for the second time for the second straight season. He went to state with the team two years ago and as an individual last season.
Kremer is one of five seniors who all ran on the varsity team last season as Mattoon returns seniors Garrett Jones, Aaron Emmerich, Mitchell Garner and Henry Skocy.
“We have 11 seniors out this year and they are looking to lead and have a great senior year,” Haacke said. “Mitch, Garrett, Henry, Aaron and Mitchell have the most experience running varsity. These guys have put in a lot of miles over the summer and I feel like they have improved from last year.
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“I think the top seven spots are still up in the air and too close to call and may change week to week. The intersquad competition is good and will make us better throughout the year.”
The Mattoon girls also fell one spot short of qualifying as a team last season. Mattoon did lose three seniors who scored for varsity last season — Gillian Card, who was the team’s No. 1 runner, Annabelle Blanchette and Haylee Young.
Still, the team had some youth last season with three freshmen scoring for the varsity. Senior Caley Lane returns and Quincy Collings, Anna Prior and Mickenze Schofield are all sophomores this season.
“Quincy has had a strong start to the beginning of the year along with Caley and freshman Kylie Haacke,” Haacke said. “Mickenze, Chaselyn Himes, Delaney Kimberlin are all returners who have shown a lot of grown and have been working hard. I believe their intersquad competition for the top seven spots will likely change week to week.”
Just like any coach, Haacke wants the team to peak at the end of the season and thinks just missing out on state last year will help both teams at regionals and sectionals this season.
“Both the boys and girls teams had near state births last season, missing it by one place at sectionals,” Haacke said. “They are using that as motivation this year.”