MATTOON — Last season, the Mattoon girls track and field team was a bit young with plenty of freshmen and sophomores on the team competing in key events. The team had some decent success last season and gained some valuable experience.
This season, the track and field team is still young and mixed with a couple of key seniors, but now those younger athletes have a year of experience under their belts.
Mattoon coach Troy Haacke said the athletes have taken a step forward coming into the 2018 season.
"Watching the young athletes grow from year to year is one of my favorite parts of coaching," Haacke said. "We were pretty young last year and many of the girls gained a lot of experience and are showing improvements this year. We are really pretty balanced, although we do have some events that still need some work in order to score points. But we are working on it and hoping to improve."
Summerlyn Smith is a junior and has two years of Class 2A state track and field experience. As a freshman, she was part of the 4x800-meter relay team that finished in seventh place at state. Last season she finished in eighth place in the triple jump at state with a distance of 36-8 feet.
Triple jump is Smith's strongest event, but she took a step forward in the 400-meter dash, an event she was a state qualifier for last season. Her time was 1:00.07 at state, but she ran under a minute last season in the 400.
"Summerlyn is an amazing athlete and I think she can get to 37 feet in the triple jump, which is an incredible jump," Haacke said. "I believe she has her sights set on breaking the 400 record, which is held by Wendi Racette from 1986 which is 58.52 seconds."
Junior Mariah Ball is also a two-time state qualifier for Mattoon. As a freshman, she was a part of the seventh-place 4x800 team. Each of the last two seasons, Ball qualified in the high jump. Last season she made it to the finals but didn't place. Ball has her sights set on the school record in the high jump and will be a key distance runner for Mattoon this season.
"She is off to a great start in the high jump, clearing over 5 feet in each of her meets and is starting to run some pretty good times," Haacke said. "She just missed 5-4 at the Apollo indoor meet (Saturday). Our school record is 5-4 7/8 by Missy Reynolds in 1981. That would be a good goal along with bringing home a state medal."
Jo Hite and Anna VanHyfte are two seniors Haacke will lean on this season. Both have played key roles on relay teams over the past couple of seasons. Hite and VanHyfte were both on the 4x200 state qualifying relay last season and VanHyfte was also on the state qualifying 4x400 relay team. Hite, who will be a part of the crew team at Indiana next season, is also a key triple jumper for the Green Wave and is coming off a first-place finish in the event at the Apollo indoor meet.
"Jo and Anna are team leaders and are a huge part of our team's success," Haacke said. "Jo had a nice win in the triple jump at the Apollo indoor and it's her farthest jump indoors. Anna has been in relays her entire track career and does a great job. I can put her anywhere and I know she will do a great job."
Haacke has a deep junior class. Along with Smith and Ball, he has Cortnee Wilson, Carlee Wilson, Amari Brown, Keleila Princko, Brina Thompson, Cheyenne Jones, Annabelle Becker, Maggie Plush, Kyanna Irizarry and Thea Whitley.
The sophomore class is led by Amiyah Johnson, who ran on the state qualifying 4x200 relay last season. Haacke will also rely on sophomores Quincy Collings, Mickenze Schofield, Kacie Collingsworth, Taylor McClain, Katelyn Cline, Chaselyn Himes, Sarah Focht, Hailey Cook, Keikei Carey, Jimissy McIntyre, Tayelor Barnes, Makenna Bailey and Kaitlyn Walker.
Haacke will also mix freshmen Kylie Haacke, Macy Overton, Tanille Thompson, Morgan Weaver, Destyne Arthur and Grace Swell in different events.
"We have great team depth and many girls who can run a lot of different things," Haacke said. "We have a lot of intrasquad competition."