BLOOMINGTON — Central Catholic High School’s all-weather track lived up to its adjective on Tuesday during the rain-soaked Illini Prairie Conference Meet where Chandlar Ifft survived what he termed “pretty dangerous” conditions to win the pole vault.
“We shouldn’t really have the vault in the rain,” said Ifft, a Prairie Central star who owns the state’s top mark in any class this season at 16 feet, 5 inches.
Ifft won at 14-6, but his freshman sister, Lillianna, the top seed in the girls pole vault, didn’t get to compete because the conditions were deemed too risky.
The girls pole vault along with the boys and girls discus were postponed until 4:15 p.m. Wednesday. If the Central discus sector remains too wet, the event will be moved to Normal West High School or Illinois Wesleyan.
With 17 of 18 events scored, the Monticello boys lead with 141 points followed by Tolono Unity (103), Rantoul (93.5), Pontiac (70) and Olympia (67.5). Prairie Central is seventh (47) and Central Catholic 10th (21) among 10 teams.
After 16 of 18 girls events, Monticello has 152 points followed by St. Joseph-Ogden (88.5), Tolono Unity (86) and Central Catholic (75.5). Olympia is sixth (49), Prairie Central eighth (27.5) and Pontiac ninth (21.5).
The rainy, 50-degree conditions caused Chandlar Ifft to rank the outing among the five worst-weather meets of his career. The meet began with a two-hour lightning delay.
“It’s one of those things where you’ve got to say ‘just go for it,’” said Ifft, who expects to announce by week's end which Division I college he'll attend.
For the first time this season, Ifft needed three attempts to clear his opening height of 14-0. He missed three times at 15-0, which would have tied his meet record.
“I always make my opening height on my first attempt — every time,” he said. “So for me, meets like this are kind of frustrating.”
The meet was a marathon for Central Catholic high jumper Natalia Garcia, who outlasted Nakaya Hughes of Champaign St. Thomas More in a jump-off, topping out at 5-1.
After both missed three times at 5-2, they each missed an extra attempt before the bar was moved down to 5-1. Both missed again so the bar was lowered to 5-0, which both cleared before the bar went back to 5-1 where Hughes missed and Garcia cleared.
“I’ve never had to go up and back down and then up again at heights like that,” Garcia said. “I’m very relieved. It’s nice to get a win like this before sectionals.”
Garcia took the weather in stride.
“It’s kind of tough, but our coaches have us practicing outside in all kinds of weather so we were prepped for things like this,” she said. “I’m thankful for that.”
Few winners were bigger surprises than No. 6-seeded Parker Kistner of Olympia, who won the boys 800-meter run in a personal best of 2 minutes, 2.01 seconds.
“He’d run a 2:03.2 over at Eureka (in a relay)," said Olympia coach David Stine. "We’ve known he was going to be a force.”
Kistner hinted his best is yet to come.
"I crossed the line and felt that I had quite a bit left,” he said.
Making it an 800 sweep for Olympia was girls winner Payton Wille, a former softball player in just her second season of track, who won in a personal best of 2:25.61. Her time was among 13 meet records in the second annual meet.
“With 200 left, I was like, ‘I still have so much in me, I think I can do it,’ and I just did it,” said the IWU bound Wille. “Going into it, I didn’t think it was going to be a PR (personal record) day just because it was windy. I just went for it.”
Pontiac triple jumper Donovan Murphy did likewise, winning at 40-2, which was 14 inches below his best.
"The sand was so compact (because of rain) that some people were doing the splits," he said. "It was insane."