BLOOMINGTON — A confounding 20-mph crosswind and 50-degree chill could not stop Tri-Valley High School sophomore Windsor Roberts in the 32nd Bloomington Invitational track meet on Friday.
The reigning Class 1A state pole vault champion notched two lifetime bests, the last making her the sixth girl in state history to clear 13 feet. Earlier, she made a personal best of 12-7 that topped the meet record of 12-6 set by Normal Community’s Brooke Catherine in 2014.
How could anyone shine on such a day?
“Honestly, I have no idea,” said Roberts, who missed three times at 13-2 during her outdoor season debut. “I knew the wind was going to be bad coming into the meet, but luckily it sort of had spots where there was no wind or a little bit for seconds. Once I felt that, I was like, ‘OK, I can go.’”
Roberts, who tied the all-time Class 1A state record of 13-0 set by Morgan Zacharias of Reed-Custer in 2015, needed three attempts at 12-7, narrowly missing on the first two.
“I needed to focus on staying tighter to my pole,” she said. “I just timed it better and that helped.”
In between attempts, Roberts updated a journal she’s kept since she started vaulting that logs every detail about each attempt such as what pole she used, the height of her grip, the placement of the standards, etc.
“It’s become a habit,” she said. “It helps me a lot.”
Another Class 1A star in a 24-team meet loaded with Class 2A and 3A entrants was Jayden Standish of Ridgeview-Lexington, who won the discus with a lifetime best of 121-7. Her 2018 best was 116-5.
“I just kind of put everything together and told myself that all it takes is one throw,” said the Illinois State softball recruit, who opened at 113-10 before posting a 107-0 and a foul prior to her winning toss. “I trusted myself. I knew that I prepared well for this. I got pumped about it and just did my thing.”
The 3,200-meter relay was a showdown of Class 2A state powers won by University High over Eureka, 9:57.54 to 10:01.64. The Pioneers trailed until Ella Bittner passed Alexi Fogo with 80 meters left, splitting 2:23.9 despite a brick wall-like breeze on the backstretch.
“It really hits you,” said Bittner, who thought about taking the lead earlier before tucking behind Fogo a little longer. “It’s a challenge.”
Getting Bittner the baton were Mackie Madix (2:30.0), Emmy Mussey (2:32.4) and Kendy Ummel (2:30.9). Bittner credited the victory to mental toughness.
“I feel like we really have developed that,” she said. “We’ve learned to trust our workouts to gain that confidence. (Racing Eureka) gets me a little nervous, but it also gets me excited to have good competition.”
Bittner also found competition in the 1,600, passing Morton’s Aspen Gordon on the homestretch to win, 5:12.30 to 5:12.45.
U High star Jessica McDowell made her career outdoor debut in the 400 an auspicious one, winning in 58.22 to narrowly miss Chante Stonewall’s 2015 school record of 58.18.
McDowell, who also ran on the third-place 400 relay (51.53), chased NCHS standout Kailah Carter in the lane to her right the first 200 meters. Carter took second in 1:00.11.
“Having her there definitely pushed me to run a lot faster, especially in this weather,” McDowell said. “I kind of saved my energy for the backstretch.”
Carter later ran 59.6 to anchor NCHS to victory in the 1,600 relay (4:10.08) with help from Jordynn Griffin (61.0), Lanaja Brownlee (66.8) and Gabi Menefee (62.6).
“After that 400, I was hungry,” said Carter, who edged runner-up Dunlap by five hundredths of a second.
Dunlap defended its team title with 114 points. U High was second (59), Eureka fourth (51), NCHS seventh (38), Normal West eighth (36), Central Catholic 14th (20), BHS 15th (15), Tri-Valley 17th (11.5), Ridgeview-Lexington 18th (10) and Pontiac 20th (8).
Other area runners-up were Normal West’s Tess Birlingmair in the 800 (2:30.61), U High’s Sydnee Scott in the pole vault (10-6) and Pontiac’s Franchesca Smith in the triple jump (34-3).
Eureka third placers were ISU recruit Emma Argo of Eureka in the 1,600 (5:22.34) and 3,200 (11:38.33), Tessa Wiegand in the 800 (2:30.60) and Allison Schrock in the pole vault (10-6).
Also third were Sydney Chong of NCHS in the 100 hurdles (15.91) and Natalie Garcia of Central Catholic in the high jump (5-0).
Michigan recruit Ameia Wilson of Danville won the 100 (11.87), 200 (24.72) and long jump (18-9).