A pack of Braves runners competing in the 1600 meters.
By BLAKE FAITH
For the last three years, the Mt. Zion Girls Track team finished in the top-10 as a team at the IHSA State Championship in Charleston. Head coach Kelly Fox thinks a realistic goal is for her team once again to finish in the top-10.
In the pre-season Milesplit had Mt. Zion was as high as ninth in the 2A rankings for girls track and field. Coach Fox said that her and her team started practice in January and had three indoor meets and that her team has definitely worked hard.
It’s a lot of fun,” Coach Fox said. “Obviously, we’re very fortunate to have this facility and so that gives us a little bit of an edge.”
Coach Fox said that her distance runners have been hard at work from cross country to now when it comes to keeping their base while only taking a little bit of a break. At this point, they’re focusing on their speed. For sprinters, the focus has been more on power and that they have been in the weight room and are looking forward to getting on the turf more while all stay injury free.
Last year’s State qualifiers were very senior heavy and Ashleigh Anderson, Emma Mallory, Rhiananon Marshall, Hannah Anderson, and Hannah Sago.
Angelina Henderson and Lydia Trump are two seniors hoping to fill those roles in terms of leadership and high-performance.
Henderson finished top-three in the 60-meters in an indoor meet and has really focused on running more to build up her endurance according to Coach Fox. In terms of leadership, Henderson said that girls look to her for guidance because she’s been around more, and they feel comfortable with her being that role model and that she helps them with what to do in each area.
Henderson said her individual goal is to get to state in the 200 meters and team goal is to get a couple relay teams to state, because of her love for her teammates. Henderson wants her lasting mark to be as an upperclassman who got through the hard workouts and as a leader.
For Trump, last year she missed the State Finals by inches after missing a hurdle, but has put a fire in her that is seen by her coach.
It was devastating that Lydia missed last year, but it was probably the best thing that could have happened to prepare her, because this year she is on fire and she is doing double practices because there’s a hurdle practice separate from our regular practices,” Coach Fox said.
Trump is the only senior hurdler on the team and she has been able to help the hurdles coach a lot with seeing what’s going on in practice with other hurdlers since there is only one coach, but gives another set of eyes and experience to help mentor the new hurdlers. Trump in the outdoor season wants to break the school record in 300-meter hurdles and get her time down in 400-meter hurdles. Trump wants to be remembered by her coaching staff and teammates as someone who’s helpful and encouraging.
“I try my best to encourage every single one of our athletes in every meet,” Trump said. “I’m always cheering for whoever I see on the track at field events, anywhere. I just want to be remembered as somebody who’s always there encouraging everybody else to do their best and just push through and do the best that they can.”
On the distance side, Alexia Finch is stepping into a role in the 1600 meters and 3200 meters where her individual goal is to break the 13-minute mark in the latter and six-minute mark and her personal record in the 1600 meters. Finch said that her leadership has been in the stretching portion and making sure that they’re stretching and supporting them in the workouts and picking up others when they are down. Finch hopes that her lasting mark will be to encourage them to be great leaders and have the same kindness and support she had to stand up and be the same way for others.
Grace Sills is the only senior returning on the throwers side and says that she has to take on the leadership role differently than others since she is the lone senior in her group. Sills wants to get back to sectionals this year and stay healthy, but will be having inner-squad competition to get back to that spot. Sills wants her lasting mark to be that she worked hard and got things done and accomplished that were asked by her coaches and teammates.
The team also brings back Sofia Munoz, Brooklyn Kondritz, Emma Crowley, Camille Mavis and Hillary Owens who were all on state-qualifying relay teams from last year. Lily Ford returns as a qualifier and Pole Vaulting medalist Alexa Weters is back as a sophomore.
Coach Fox said that she expects her team in terms of leadership to stay positive and have each other’s backs.
“Every team is going to experience a little bit of conflict at some point,” Coach Fox said. “But, we emphasize to the kids how important it is that you gotta have your teammates back. And it doesn’t mean you need to be best friends outside of, you know, track itself. But, for the most part, they lift each other up. They keep each other excited and they hold each other accountable. And, I’m not saying we have the perfect program because we don’t, but I think it’s really nice to see our seniors step into a mentor role with some of the younger classmen and really nurture and foster their love of the sport as long as well as leading the team towards what we’ve been able to accomplish these last couple of years.”
Co-coach Sabrina Behrends has been around this program as co-coach for five years and was a track athlete at Mt. Zion High School. Coach Fox stressed that Coach Behrends is an integral part to the success of this program and to her is not an Assistant coach, but a Co-Coach to this program.
“This program is truly something special and something to be proud of,” Behrends said. “Kelly’s been a wonderful head coach, speaking as a former athlete of hers and as her co-coach for the past couple years. She has done something really special and
I’m very proud to be a part of something that we can build on. We’ve had great teams and I expect great things from these teams.”
Coach Fox’s overall message to readers and the community is to come out and support this team.
“This is a sport where you don’t always get all the fanfare and everything, but if you only saw the work that these kids put in, and if you would come out and just celebrate that with us,” Coach Fox said. “ I wish we could get more people in the community to do that, but this is a great group to be proud of. Not just on the track, but in the classroom and just all around people.”