CHAMPAIGN — Alex Ahmari is the lucky winner this weekend.
When the starter’s pistol is fired into the air Saturday morning at Bloomington’s Maxwell Park, the Champaign Central junior will have mother Kirsten on hand cheering during a 3-mile Class 2A sectional cross-country meet.
Last weekend, it was Alex’s sister Kate who got Mom’s support.
It’s a bit of a balancing act for the Ahmari family, with Kate a freshman runner at Uni High.
The siblings’ regional meets last week — as with a majority of their regular-season events — were split both by school size and location.
Alex raced in Metamora, Kate in Tuscola. Both advanced to the penultimate stage of the high school cross-country season: the sectional meet.
And while Kate had Kirsten in her regional corner, Alex was backed at his regional by father David.
“It’s tough because our youngest, Max, also does youth soccer and basketball, so we’ve also got that on Saturday mornings a lot,” Kirsten said. “Alex’s meets have been farther away, and Kate runs a lot closer to home. So we’ve just been naturally able to go to a lot more of Kate’s.”
That won’t be the case when Kate toes the line in Saturday’s Class 1A Effingham St. Anthony Sectional, held at the Mid America Corvette course, as David is out of town on business.
Luckily, Kirsten has a plan for keeping tabs on Kate’s progress.
“I have to rely on my moms squad,” Kirsten said. “... Both their races start at 10 a.m., so I’ll be cheering on (Alex) and also looking at my phone for updates from Effingham.”
Alex and Kate have the opportunity to meet up at Peoria’s Detweiller Park on Nov. 9 should their sectionals go well.
“We’ve run the same meets before,” Kate said, “but it would be cool to run at the same state meet.”
Alex is aiming to become the first Central boys’ state qualifier since Ashton Hyatt in 2014.
“I want to set the example for the younger kids because we have some really good freshmen out there,” said Alex, who estimates he’ll need to run a season-best 15 minutes, 40 seconds to earn a state spot.
“I want them to see me out there, go out, work hard and say, ‘Hey, I can do that, too.’”
Kate won her regional race in 18:16, helping the Illineks to a fifth-place team showing and sectional berth.
“I just want to help the team qualify for state,” Kate said of a unit that took 15th in last year’s 1A field. “We have a pretty competitive sectional, and it’s going to be kind of hard to qualify.”
Alex and Kate are far from the only Champaign-Urbana high school siblings to pursue athletics in separate institutions.
They were given the choice by their parents. Alex wanted “the real-world experience” of going to a public school. Kate recalls that “I just applied, and I got in” to Uni High.
But their extracurriculars kicking off near-simultaneously on a consistent basis creates a unique wrinkle for Kirsten and David.
There’s potential good news for the Ahmaris: David will be able to attend the state meet.
“It’s more excited than nerves,” Kirsten said. “They both put in a lot of hard work into it, and they both know what they need to do to get there. And all we ask is they do their best.”