MONTICELLO — Cully Welter is an expert at asset management.
He has to be as his Monticello girls track and field team competes in Class 2A with a small roster.
Yet Welter found a way to maximize his team’s potential to a sixth-place finish at state, making him the Herald & Review Area Girls Track Coach of the Year.
“I’m pretty happy (with the season). I feel like we don’t have a very big team, we are certainly one of the smaller schools in 2A and we won our fourth straight sectional in 2A,” he said. “And we won our fourth straight conference (meet) with a limited number of girls. It says a lot about the type of girls we have and I was pretty proud of them this year.”
The Sages were led by senior Aliyah Welter, who will compete for Louisville next year. The defending 2A pole vault champion, and Welter's daughter, took home a silver medal in the event and later discovered the pain she had in her foot while competing was more serious than first thought.
“Aliyah had a pretty disappointing year but we found out she competed the whole season on a broken foot," he said. "Early April was when she was having the pain and we thought it was a ligament. She definitely had to train around it and we didn’t realize it was broken. From an individual perspective, it was disappointing but from the team perspective she was very happy to be a part of such a great group of girls.”
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That group included sophomore Landis Brandon (eighth in pole vault), junior Alyssa McPike (11th in 3,200 meters), sophomore Emelia Ness (300-meter hurdles) and sophomore Mattie Lieb (eighth in the 200 meters).
The long list of Monticello state qualifiers is impressive considering the team consisted of just 20 athletes.
“It’s fun but you are so thin that you really have to maximize the events and where you put the girls that you have," Welter said. "I think the aspect that makes me most proud with this group there is hardly an event we didn’t cover with the limited number of girls. We had distance, we had jumps, we had hurdles, we had sprints, we had a couple good discus throwers. We really managed to cover all the events, which is hard to do with a small roster.”
As a group, the Sages strive for team success as much as individual accomplishments and a highlight in the season for Welter was defeating the eventual Class 1A state champs at the Illini Prairie Conference meet.
“We try as much as anybody to focus on the team as much as you can in a sport like track, which is kind of individually based,” he said. “I know our girls take a lot of pride in winning the fourth straight conference against a team like St. Joseph-Ogden, who won state in 1A. Then to come back and win the fourth straight 2A sectional, I think that was as important to them as qualifying in the individual events.
“It makes me proud to coach them as well as they really do care about each other and want to see each other succeed as well.”