FAIRBURY — Anchored by family ties, Chandlar Ifft has been able to soar.
Family played a big part when it came time for the Prairie Central High School senior pole vaulter to pick a college. He went with Wisconsin, which is closer than his other top options: Oral Roberts and Louisville.
"With it being only three hours away, my parents can drive up on any given day and watch me vault," said Ifft, who has become the state's top vaulter in any class thanks to his Prairie Central vault coach and father, Mark.
"He's pretty much been at every single meet I've ever been to. I probably can't even name two meets he hasn't been to in my high school career."
The parent-child coaching dynamic doesn't always work, but the Iffts have found a way.
"We work very well together," Chandlar says. "We figure things out."
Mark concedes the father-coach role is "a terribly fine line to walk," but there has been a saving grace.
"Chandlar has been an easy kid to coach," Mark says. "From time to time, we'll run stuff by each other. Overall, coaching has been really fun with him."
It's also been fruitful.
Chandlar's school record clearance of 16 feet, 5 inches this season ranks fourth in Pantagraph area history behind Bloomington's Zach Bradford (17-9 in 2018), Streator's Logan Pflibsen (17-2 in 2010) and Pontiac's Phil Hanson (16-7 in 2006).
"In my head, that (16-5) was kind of a sloppy jump," Chandlar confesses. "I wanted that bar so bad I was going to do anything to get it.
"All I had to do was invert really hard off the top of my pole and I could clear it. As long as I had my hips over the bar, I was going to clear it."
Hailing from a family with seven children, Ifft began vaulting in fifth grade after watching older sister, Kassadee, take up the sport. She went on to win the 2015 Class 2A state crown before heading to Notre Dame. Her prep best of 12-10 ranks fourth in area history.
Their freshman sister, Lillianna, has made 12-0 this spring, which ranks third in 2A. The Ifft girls have a big fan in Chandlar.
"He loves his family," Mark says. "He's the first one to pick them up when they fall and the first one to cheer them on when they do well."
As for Chandlar, his progress has been a veritable stairway to heaven as he cleared 5-6 in fifth grade, 6-0 in sixth, 9-9 in seventh, 11-3 in eighth, 13-0 in ninth, 14-0 in 10th and 15-9¼ in 11th.
The Iffts have augmented their training at the Flying Dragons Field Event Center in Normal where the philosophy is to compete against the crossbar instead of each other.
"It's less pressure to not have to compete against the other kids," Chandlar says. "When you are going at the crossbar, there are so many things that are going at you already that you don't need that extra weight."
Ahead lay Wisconsin's school records of 17-10½ outdoors and 17-1¾ indoors. The 6-foot, 165-pound Chandlar will be the first freshman vaulter the Badgers have started on a partial scholarship.
"He's pushing the door on 17 feet now," Mark notes. "Hopefully by the end of state, we'll get that 17-foot mark."
Chandlar, who will major in marketing and business, found Wisconsin to be love at first sight.
"When I went on my visit, I bonded with the coach (Nate Davis) and the team very well," Chandlar said. "I thought that was somewhere where I could learn and grow as a pole vaulter."
Chandlar, who placed fourth in last year's Class 2A state meet, hopes to become his school's first individual state champion in track.
"It would just complete everything that I have worked for," he said. "I've been going for it for a long, long time. My sister got one and I want that feeling, too."