The Braves won their first sectional title in school history with a team score of 161, ahead of Tolono Unity (129), Monticello (105) and Charleston (37). In total, Mount Zion will send athletes in 11 different events to next Friday's Class 2A state track and field meet at Eastern Illinois University with competitors in the 100 meters, 200m, 400m, 100m hurdles, 300m hurdles, 4x100 relay, 4x200 relay, 4x800 relay, high jump, long jump and triple jump.
Senior Morgan Pilate led Mount Zion with three sectional championships — the 100 hurdles, long jump and triple jump — and also qualified for state in a fourth event in the 4x100 relay.
"I'm very excited about today. It is crazy to think that I was able to do that, especially with it being my senior year. I was happy that I was able to bring my best foot forward," Pilate said. "It was sad and we were all very morose that we didn't get the season that we were all looking forward to last year. This year, I think we are performing just like we would have and even better."
Mount Zion senior sprinter Sara Addai was also sectional champion in three events — 100, 200 and 400. Pilate said she loves competing against Addai in practice.
"(Sara) is definitely great at keeping her speed and maintaining it and getting up to it," Pilate said. "She and I are always in competition all the time. I love seeing her run and she is very passionate about what she does."
While Pilate will compete in the long jump and triple jump at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee next season, Addai will attend Cornell University, but doesn't plan to run in college.
"I'm surprised that I didn't cry today because I have been running on this track for seven years and this was my last meet on it. I am sad about that. I think I will probably end up crying at state," Addai said.
While doing her race preparation, it was news to Addai that she was seeded as the top sprinter at the sectional.
"I was really surprised by my performance today. I did not know I was placed first in all my events and so I was really nervous for the 100," Addai said. "In the 400 — that's my race — and that's the one I really want to win. I'm hoping I will be able to win the state championship in the 400 and do whatever I can in the 200 and the 100."
With the modified COVID schedule, this year's high school track and field season has been pushed three weeks deeper into the summer, leading to potential challenges of hotter temperatures but Addai thinks it has hasn't hurt her.
"I think it has helped. I think I've gone faster than I normally do," she said. "I'm really proud of everyone and we have never won a sectional before so I am really happy for (Mount Zion girls track coach Kelly Fox) because the entire team did their best today."
Joining Addai and Pilate as a sectional champions was Alaina Barr in the 300m hurdles. Other Mount Zion qualifiers included Lydia Trump (300m hurdles), Rhiannon Marshall (high jump), the 4x100 relay team (Pilate, Hillary Owens, Angelina Henderson, Madison Inman), 4x200 relay team (Henderson, Owens, Ashlyn Duncan, Raina Wolf) and 4x800 relay team (Sofia Munoz, Emma Mallory, Camille Mavis, Emma Crowley). The 4x100 and 4x200 teams set school records with their times on Thursday.
The historic victory for the Braves sets them up well for a shot at the 2A state team championship next week.
"I think taking three relay teams to state is exciting in and of itself. We have some great senior leadership this year. Today, I had some coaches come up and talk to me that they were impressed with my team and how they were helping out other competitors," Fox said. "That is the kind of team we are. We don't just look out and cheer for each other, it is an all-around team sport and so we are cheering for everyone."
Sages send six events
Led by sophomore Mabry Bruhn, who was sectional champion in three events — 1,600m, 3,200m and pole vault — Monticello finished third at the 2A Mount Zion sectional.
Bruhn was joined by Estella Miller who also qualified in the 1,600m and 3,200m.
"I'm very happy and we had two runners that qualified in the two miles and came back and did it in the mile. They did it exceptionally well and not far off from their personal records," Monticello girls track and field coach Cully Welter said. "I am very pleased with their effort today."
Rose Talbert qualified for state in the 400m and Rachel Koon advanced in the 800m. Grace Talbert, Rose Talbert, Kyara Welter and Koon also advanced in the 4x800 relay. Bruhn's victory in the pole vault was with a personal best height of 3.13 meters.
"(Mabry) likes to do it and it is something she has done for a long time. She was good at it in junior high and she had a P.R. in that today. It was a surprise victory because we knew she could qualify but weren't expecting her to win," Welter said. "We will have a good contingent down at state and the girls we are taking will have a good chance of placing at state."
Other local athletes qualifying for state included Charleston's Makenna McBride (100m), Charleston's Megan Garrett (800m) and Mattoon's Maya Cook (shot put).
PHOTOS: 2A Girls Track and Field Sectional at Mount Zion
Contact Matthew Flaten at (217) 421-6968. Follow him on Twitter: @MattFlaten
As the spectators found their seats at the Mount Zion High School football field last Friday and the band has warmed up the crowd, the Braves football team entered the corner of the field, waiting for their big entrance. There you found senior lineman Chad Deaton, large American flag in hand.
Charleston's Megan Garrett advanced to state in the 800 meter at the Class 2A Mount Zion Sectional on Thursday, and will compete at the state meet in Charleston starting Friday. She'll be joined by teammate Makenna McBride (100 meter) and Mattoon's Maya Cook (shot put). For more photos and video, go to jg-tc.com/sports.