BLOOMINGTON — A peculiar aspect of Zachery Bradford’s stellar pole vaulting career has been the ever-higher marks he’s posted on “off” days.
Tuesday’s sub-par performance by the Bloomington High School sensation produced a Big 12 Conference Indoor Meet record of 17 feet, 6 inches, which destroyed the 2012 mark of 16-0¾ set by Normal West’s Eric Gordon.
Most would have considered Bradford’s third Big 12 indoor crown the achievement of a lifetime, but not when your personal best is 18-0½, the height the Kansas recruit cleared on Saturday in New York City to win the New Balance Nationals.
“Coming back from 18, I’ll take it (17-6),” said Bradford, who went out at 18-0. “When I cleared 18-0½ (the No. 2 prep indoor mark in U.S. history), I was on a 16-1 pole. This one is only 15-7.”
Bradford didn’t use his 16-1 pole because the runway was shortened by the placement of fully automatic timing equipment.
“I couldn’t move my step back so I was working on smaller poles,” said Bradford, whose next meet will be the March 24 Illinois Top Times Indoor Classic at Shirk Center.
Bradford’s 10 points helped BHS score 142 to secure its seventh consecutive title. Danville was second (64) followed by Normal Community (58). Normal West took fifth (34).
“It was a good team effort,” said BHS coach John Szabo. “That really paid off today. Other teams had some injuries, but our kids really stepped up and competed hard. I’m really proud of the kids.”
Other winning Purple Raiders were Drew Crooks in the long jump (20-9½), James Ellis in the high jump (6-2) and Jante Hatfield in the 60 high hurdles (9.02).
“I scratched a 22-5,” lamented Crooks, whose career outdoor best is 21-3. “I’ve got a lot of room for improvement. I’ve got to get my steps down because I haven’t had a lot of practice.”
Crooks later placed second in the 400 (53.26) and third in the triple jump (41-4¼).
The 5-foot-8 Ellis won the high jump despite failing to tie his season best of 6-4.
“I marked my (approach starting) spot and the past couple meets, I haven’t been marking it,” he confessed. “I think I’ve got to get used to where my spot was last year.”
Ellis, who took third in the 200 (23.58), rallied his 800 relay to victory in 1:35.06. Getting him the stick were DaQwan Davis, Lavareon Campbell and Josiah Heinz.
Hatfield had to hurdle in a hurry just to stay ahead of teammate C.J. Hyde in second (9.15).
“It felt like I was trailing my teammate,” Hatfield said. “We always push each other and we have since elementary school.”
Normal West’s Michael Cleary pushed himself to victory in the 400 in 52.71 after top-seeded Quermaril Williams of Danville did not start due to injury.
“I know I can go a lot faster than that,” said Cleary, who hopes to take his indoor best of 52.52 under the school record of 50.91.
Normal West sophomore Charlie Wetzel won the 3,200 in a personal best of 9:36.30 after taking the lead midway from eventual runner-up Nick Doud of BHS (9:45.96).
“My old best (9:52.05) was good for that day, but I was pretty sure I could do better,” Wetzel said.
Augustana (S.D.) football recruit Franky West of NCHS won the 200 in 23.18 by avenging a loss to Josh Diekoff of Peoria Richwoods in the 60.
“He’s great competition,” said West, who won by .25. “We’re good friends.”
Mauliek Johnson of BHS placed second in the long jump (20-8½) and triple jump (41-11½). Other area runners-up were Austin Bicknell of BHS in the 800 (2:06.71), Reid Wilson of NCHS in the pole vault (14-0), BHS in the 1,600 relay (3:36.19) and NCHS in the 3,200 relay (8:43.28).