CHARLESTON — The Pantagraph area’s dynamite Class 2A pole vaulters didn’t need to light their fuses during the mere formality of the preliminaries Friday in the 39th girls state track meet at O’Brien Stadium.
While the vaulters delayed true liftoff until Saturday’s 10 a.m. finals, other area entrants such as Mahomet-Seymour’s 1,600-meter relay had to go all out to advance and they did with a school record time of 3 minutes, 59.17 seconds, the No. 5 mark in Pantagraph area history.
University High freshman Sydney Billingsley advanced second in the 1,600 to lead 10 area individual qualifiers and two relays.
Mahomet-Seymour has six scoring chances Saturday. Only six schools have more led by Springfield Southeast with 10. U High has five scoring opportunities.
Reigning state pole vault champion Emily Grove of Pontiac, 2009 champion Emily Clay and Liz Composto, both of University High, were among 13 to advance. Clay and Grove made 11-0 and Composto only needed 10-6.
Grove ran with a wrap on her lower right leg to protect a tendon injury that limited her to 12 feet and third place in the sectional behind Clay and Composto. Grove, a South Dakota recruit, holds the all-time state record of 13-5.
“My warm-ups were iffy in the beginning, but when I had my two minutes (to go call), I was like ‘All right, I’m fine,’ ” Grove said. “I’m excited for tomorrow. Mentally, I’m 110 percent. That will bring me up physically any day of the week.”
Clay, a Cincinnati recruit, also qualified 11th in the 1,600 (5:16.42) after failing to advance in the 800 where she was 15th in 2:21.72. The pole vault finals lost two contenders when No. 2-seeded Baily Murphy of Belvidere North and 2010 placer Shelby Stevenson of Urbana did not advance.
“You never want to see people who should be in the finals not be there,” Clay said. “That’s kind of upsetting.”
Clay hopes to exceed her school record of 12-6 Saturday.
“I’m really sick of going 12-6, but it’s good to be consistent,” she said. “I feel like once I get that next bar, I’ll get a lot more bars.”
Composto, whose best is 12-0, will look to improve on her fifth-place finish of a year ago.
“She looked great,” said U High coach Stu Shaver.
Billingsley, the lone freshman qualifier in the 1,600, won her heat in 5:10.31 to narrowly miss her school record of 5:10.17. Only state cross country champion Kayla Beattie of Woodstock ran faster at 5:08.10.
“I just wanted to get a good time,” said Billingsley, who could pick out the voices of U High assistants John Neisler and Kate Zimmerman cheering her on. “I owe them for everything.”
Billingsley is also entered in Saturday’s 3,200.
Mahomet-Seymour advanced fourth in the 1,600 relay while breaking their 2010 school record of 3:59.49. Manning the baton were Jessica Melchi (59.9), Emma Cabutti (60.0), Shelby Stucker (60.8) and Brittany Bohn (58.6).
“The Bulldogs had a good day,” said Mahomet-Seymour coach Bonnie Moxley, who advanced four individuals and two relays.
Bohn’s career-best 2:16.8 anchor leg in the 3,200 relay advanced her team seventh with a season-best 9:38.36. Getting her the baton were Stucker (2:27.7), Cabutti (2:25.2) and Allie Melchi (2:28.6). Bohn also qualified seventh in the 800 in 2:18.18.
“I’m glad I ran well in the four-by-800, but it would have been nice to do better in the open (800),” said Bohn after running the best back-to-back 800s of her career.
Jessica Melchi, a sophomore, advanced ninth in the 400 in a career-best 58.62 to bring Wendy Welter’s 1985 school record of 58.2 within reach.
“I was like ‘I’ve just got to go my first 200 and hopefully I’ll have something left,’” Melchi said.
Mahomet-Seymour discus throwers Mackenzie Joop and Morgan Young advanced fourth (109-10) and 11th (100-10), respectively. Joop is the first freshman discus finalist for veteran Bulldog throws coach Tom Willard. She is seven feet out of first.
“She’s got a quick arm,” Willard said. “She’s a good athlete.”
Young, a sophomore, came in seeded second at 122-3, but had an off day.
“She got two bad throws in and her good one went out of the sector,” Willard said.
Bloomington had a pair of 12th-place qualifiers in triple jumper Chrissy Little (34-11) and long jumper Olivia Casey (16-11.5).
“Her second jump was actually better, but she exited the pit to the side so they didn’t measure it,” said BHS coach Roland Brent of Casey. “That was probably 17-3 or 17-4.”
Little, whose best is 35-8, hopes to reach 36 Saturday.
“My first two jumps, I don’t think I was aggressive,” she said. “I know I can do better.”