BLOOMINGTON — The Pantagraph area’s status as the pole vault capital of Illinois remained unassailed on day two of the Illinois Top Times Indoor Track and Field Championships at Shirk Center on Saturday.
Ruling the world of carbon fiber poles were Bloomington High School sophomore Zachery Bradford and Prairie Central senior Kassadee Ifft, both members of the Normal-based Flying Dragons Pole Vault Club.
Bradford cleared 16 feet to win the Class 3A boys crown while Ifft flew over a career best of 13-0 to capture the Class 2A girls title.
The meet, which annually attracts the state’s best athletes, also saw the area produce three runners-up in University High sophomore Lauren Seaver in the 3A pole vault, Bloomington sophomore Ellie Weltha in the 3A shot put and Mahomet-Seymour senior Lauren Whitehouse in the 2A 3,200-meter run.
Seventh here a year ago, Bradford had several shaky attempts at lower heights, but matched his career best of 16-0 on his second attempt before going out at 16-5. He also had one miss at both 14-0 and 15-6, but made 14-6 and 15-0 on his first try.
“By the time I got up there (to 16-0), everything felt right,” he said. “I was getting too anxious (at 16-5).”
Bradford, who began vaulting in fifth grade, was 5-4 and 120 pounds a year ago, but now measures 5-10 and 135.
“I don’t have much speed,” conceded Bradford, who compensates with stellar technique.
A Notre Dame recruit, Ifft first attempted 13-0 as a sophomore. After dozens of failed attempts in the ensuing years, she was overjoyed to finally clear it.
“I’m on Cloud Nine,” she said. “I did everything right (at 13-0). It’s so surreal. I’m so excited. This kick starts me into the outdoor season. I couldn’t be happier.”
Ifft went out at 13-3.
“I had the hip height,” she said, “but the legs just weren’t there.”
In the girls 3A vault, U High’s Seaver ignored shin problems to make a career best of 12-0. Grayslake Central’s Katherine Schroeder won with a meet record 12-9.
“It feels amazing,” said Seaver, who went out at 12-3. “I’ve really wanted that bar for a long time. I think (the key) was staying calm, not even thinking about what the bar height was.”
Bloomington’s Weltha posted the second best shot put toss of her life at 43-5, just one inch off her best. The third-seeded Weltha beat everyone except Metea Valley’s Courtney Morgan (46-6).
“Mentally, I just said I really wanted a PR (personal record),” Weltha said. “That was about as close as I could get right there. I’m shooting for a 44 this year and I think I’m on the right track to do it.”
Cary Lockhart of BHS finished third in the 60-meter dash in 6.97 seconds. Ahead of him were Lockport’s Derrius Rodgers (6.87) and Galesburg’s Josh Eiker (6.89). In the prelims, Rodgers, Eiker and Lockhart won their heats in 6.91, 6.96 and 7.00, respectively.
“I’m going to be a lot better outdoors,” Lockhart said. “I’m working on my explosiveness out of the blocks. I’ll be perfectly fine as long as I do that.”
Lockhard’s 21.5 anchor leg helped BHS place fifth in the 800 relay in 1:32.78.
Normal West’s Hunter Whitwood took third in the 3A pole vault with a career best of 15-0. Teammate Ryan Ashenbremer tied for fifth at 14-6.
“My warmup jumps were really good so I was hoping for something good today,” Whitwood said. “Everything just clicked.”
Mahomet-Seymour’s Whitehouse ran a lifetime best of 11:07.16 for second in the 2A 3,200 behind Rockford Boylan’s Grace McLaughlin (11:05.65).
“I’m trying to go after our school records in the 1,600 (4:55.24) and 3,200 (10:44.44),” said Whitehouse, who later helped her 3,200 relay finish fourth (9:50.66) by anchoring in 2:28.4.
Joining her were Laurel Roney (2:23.3), Kaitlyn Lewis (2:28.5) and Brisa McGrath (2:30.5).
Mahomet-Seymour also took fourth in the boys 3,200 relay (8:15.37) thanks to Ben Craw (2:03.3), Mason McAnnaly (2:03.8), Jack Hyde (2:03.2) and Gabe Pommier (2:05.0).
U High junior Jack Franklin sliced five seconds off his career best in the 3,200 with a 9:31.97 for fourth in 2A. In the 3A 3,200 relay, Normal West was fourth (8:14.64) with Alex Hillegass (2:02.2), Tyler Dunn (2:01.8), Glenn Kinley (2:08.3) and Matt DeGroot (2:02.5).
Normal Community’s Nikki Ogorek tied for fourth in the girls 3A pole vault at 11-6.