When he saw the date and time for Mahomet-Seymour's graduation this year, senior Mathias Powell had to break the news to his parents that he wouldn't be going.
The ceremony is set for tonight, right in the middle of the state track meet, sandwiched between today's midday preliminaries and Saturday's finals. Powell will be running both the 1,600 meters, where he's ranked No. 2 in Class 2A, and the 3,200 meters, where he has the fastest time in 2A this season.
"As soon as I found out that it was going to be Friday night, I was already planning on getting my body loosened up and ready for the next day, so I knew I wasn't going to be going to graduation," the Class 2A cross-country individual champion said.
His parents "weren't thrilled about it, but they definitely understood that this is what I needed to do, so once I kind of expressed that I didn't think it would be a good thing for me to go, they were pretty on board. They weren't happy about it, but they understood."
Urbana's Payton Borich was one of several area athletes who had to break similar news to family members. The senior has family coming in from as far as California to watch him graduate Saturday morning.
But if all goes well in the preliminaries of the 3,200-meter relay and/or the 800, he won't be walking across the stage at 11 a.m. Saturday.
Borich will still be able to have a graduation party at his house Saturday night, but he hopes to be wearing track spikes instead of a cap and gown that day.
His teammate, Michael Mboyo, has wrestled with the reality of missing graduation for track for years. Ultimately, the 800-meter relay member decided that if his team qualified, he would be in Charleston on Saturday to win a medal.
"Since my sophomore year, I always asked myself, 'Would I really give up going to graduation to go to (state) finals?'" Mboyo said. "It's something I've thought a lot about, and I came to that decision."
Some athletes are able to make time for both. Rantoul Township's Elijah Hall, though, will have to forego some parties after the Eagles' graduation tonight.
"I'm excited for graduation, too, but I'm focusing on track first and then graduation later. One step at a time," said Hall, who will compete in the 1,600-meter relay. "I've made sure to let people know that I have state. But especially the parties on Saturday, I'll try to make it. But I've definitely had to say I can't go to a couple."
A difficult decision for some wasn't tough for Powell, who hopes to lead Mahomet-Seymour to a state trophy for a second straight year.
"I've worked hard; a lot of guys on the team have worked hard," he said. "To be so close, it would take a lot more than a graduation ceremony to jeopardize my chances of doing well at the state meet."