One of Missy Ade's favorite things about coaching is witnessing how hard her girls work to get better.
She came into her third year as Pana's girls track coach with an air of excitement, which her team matched by showing up to every workout focused and prepared.
That is, whenever the weather was nice enough for them to have practice.
“With the weather that we had, every day that we could be outside was a blessing,” Ade, H&R's Area Girls Track Coach of the Year, said. “But I couldn't be more proud of the girls.”
In addition to winning the South Central Conference title for the third year in a row, six Panthers qualified for the IHSA class 1A state finals: distance medalist Claudia Magnussen, jumper Daylee Denton, runner Hollie Johnson and the 4x400 relay team of Johnson, Colleen Weddle, Claire Holthaus and Bree Rochkes.
Ade said that since four seniors have left the team, the recruitment process for next season has already begun. Pana used to only allow students to choose from one sport to play in the spring, and for girls, the options were soccer, softball and track. The school has since changed that rule and now allows students to play two sports at the same time.
Ade spends time talking to eighth graders and other prospective runners who have an interest in track, but may not be ready to commit right right away.
“A lot of (freshmen) come in wanting to do soccer," she said. “But since the school said they can now play two sports instead of just one, it's changed the minds of some of the girls.”
For Ade, one of the main selling points for the team is that despite all of the running, it's actually a lot of fun. She said that doesn't have much to do with her, though.
“The girls make it fun,” Ade said. “During the three years that I've been at the high school, they make it that way. They work really hard and do what they have to do to get the job done.”
She sees more of that spirit in the incoming batch of freshmen.
“I don't want to force them to do anything, but there are some eighth graders who are gung-ho about track. We should still be pretty strong coming into next year,” Ade said.
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Getting to know her ...
Q: What's your dream vacation destination?
A: I would kind of like to visit the Bahamas. I love the ocean and I love the scenery.
Q: What's your favorite animal?
A: Dolphins are something that I like. I've been on certain tours and had opportunities to pet them. It's pretty amazing. You'd think that a dolphin would be scared of people, but I guess they're not as afraid of you as you'd think they'd be.
Q: What's your favorite movie?
A: Hoosiers. The background of that movie and what it's actually all about really means a lot to me.
Q: What do you like to do in your spare time?
A: I usually like to watch my godchildren and go to all of their sporting events. I really like to spend time with family and friends, and catch up on some time with them that I lose out on during the season.
Q: Describe yourself in three words.
A: Competitive, outgoing, appreciative.