Zacharias sets Class 1A pole vault record for another title

CHARLESTON — One of the most accomplished athletes in the Kankakee area over the last four years competed in her final high school event Saturday at the IHSA Girls Track and Field State Finals in Charleston as recent graduate Morgan Zacharias reached the end of her impressive high school career.

Reed-Custer’s pole vault wunderkind won the event’s state championship almost casually, comfortably topping the required height of 11 feet, 6 inches required to win the state title before setting her sights on more lofty goals.

Zacharias had only a slight reaction to her winning jump, showing nothing but her trademark intensity as the bar was raised to a Class 1A record-setting height of 13 feet, 3 inches. Though Morgan cleared the bar cleanly to enter her name into the record books, topping her own record of 12-11 from last year’s state meet, she still wasn’t ready to celebrate as she set her sights on the all-time state record across all three classes at 13-5. On her second attempt at the undisputed Illinois record, she nicked the bar and missed her goal by just a hair’s breadth.

Settling for her second-consecutive Class 1A state championship and a record-setting day was anything but a consolation, though, as Zacharias’ steely demeanor broke after she returned to her coaches and family as a two-time champ.

“I could’ve jumped 13-5 and I want to do better, but honestly it just didn’t happen. I’m ready to hit 14 [feet] in college and I can’t wait for my college coaches at the University of Louisville to help me,” she said of her near miss with the all-time Illinois record.

“My high school career was pretty successful. My sophomore year wasn’t as successful as it could’ve been, but in my junior year, my dad and I worked really hard and I jumped 13 and now I’m up to 13-3 and, as you saw, almost 13-5 so my high school experience has been great and being here is an awesome atmosphere.”

Summarizing her final high-school year proved an emotional task as Zacharias fought back tears while adding that she hopes someone can break her record and that the vaulters that follow her continue to get better.

The meet served as a bookend to another local champion as a member of Kankakee’s 2014 Class 2A 800-meter relay championship team, Tyjuana Eason, competed for the final time as a senior.

Eason finished fourth in the 200 dash and teamed up with Shaneequa Hubert, Jemiya Bates and Stacy Lawrence to take third place in the 400 relay. Hubert, a junior, also competed in an individual event, taking sixth in the 300 hurdles.

Upperclassmen weren’t the only athletes making waves in Charleston, either. Dwight sophomore Daly Galloway completed her year with another pair of top-five finishes, adding a second-place in the 3200 run and a fourth in the 1600 run to her third-place cross country state final finish last fall.

Despite the impressive day, no one is more aware of her potential to do even bigger things as an upperclassman than Galloway herself.

“I felt like today I could’ve done better. I was a little tired. Next year, I have bigger goals and I’m really looking forward to coming back next year.” she said. “I’ve been working really hard, we’ve been doing a lot of speed work and I think we’re going to continue with that and keep going.

“I feel like I am going to do a lot better next year, 5:08 definitely isn’t my best and next year we’re going to keep doing what we’ve been doing.”

Watseka’s Allee Bunting took 11th place in the discus as the Warriors lone representative at the final day of the meet, finishing with a throw of 119 feet 4 inches.

Elsewhere, Reed-Custer’s Emma Johnson finished 11th in the shot put, while Wilmington’s Kara Brock came in 25th in the 3,200 run.

Central finished its strong season with a handful of solid performances from Emery Podowicz, Clare Peters, Andrea Pace and Hanna Gray.

Podowicz took seventh in the Class 1A 100 hurdles and fourth in the 300 hurdles, Peters finished just behind her Comets teammate in the 300 hurdles, taking sixth, and the four of them teamed up to take fourth in the 1,600 relay.

All four Central representatives will have a chance to return next season and after her three qualifying events, Podowicz, a sophomore, is optimistic for the program’s future.

“I’m feeling hopeful. Hopefully we can know down even more time next year because, even from last year, we’ve moved up for places this year.” she said. “I think we did even better than I was expecting this year. I know our [1,600], we worked our butts off this season and, for me, I was out for three months before track season started with a foot injury. Coming back, I wasn’t feeling that positive so I’m just happy to be here.”



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