BLOOMINGTON — Day two of the 30th Illinois Top Times Indoor Track Classic at Shirk Center proved educational on Saturday.
We learned Clinton High School junior Payne Turney is the queen of ignoring pain when it comes to distance doubles, and we discovered it takes a lot to make a name for yourself in Prairie Central’s pole vaulting Ifft family.
Senior Chandlar Ifft cleared a winning 15 feet, 6 inches in Class 2A while his freshman sister, Lillianna, took second in the girls vault at 12-0. Their big sister, former state champion Kassadee, vaults for Notre Dame.
So what’s life like in a family of vaulters?
“It means there is a lot of knowledge in our family about pole vaulting, and there is a little bit of competition about who is the better vaulter, but it’s all fun,” said Chandlar, who won by a foot before going out at 16-1.
He began with first-attempt clearances at 14-6 and 15-0 before needing three tries at 15-6, a height that also would have won in 3A.
“I was just not hitting my takeoff right (at 16-1),” he said. “If I would have hit it right, I could have cleared it, and I should have inverted a little better.”
Lillianna Ifft, who nearly made 12-6, has closely observed her siblings.
“If it wasn’t for Kassadee,” she said, “I probably wouldn’t be here right now.”
Clinton’s Turney dominated the 2A 800-meter run (2:15.59) and 1,600 (5:07.07), leading the former from start to finish thanks to laps of 31.3, 32.7, 34.8 and 36.9 to finish nearly five seconds ahead of the runner-up.
“The game plan was to go out hard and see who was going to stick,” Turney said. “Nobody stuck.”
Turney, who ran over the winter for the first time and cross-trained by swimming, was aware of her splits during the race.
“I heard 1:03 (midway) and I was like ‘oh man, this is going to hurt,’” she said.
Turney had her fellow 1,600 entrants in pain after passing 400 meters in 68.7 and 800 in 2:36.9. She went on to win by nearly two seconds ahead of Urbana’s Olivia Rosenstein.
Rounding out Pantagraph area 2A winners was the Eureka girls 3,200 relay (9:45.28). The Hornets were thrown a curve when Lexi Grober was sidelined by illness. Luckily, they had a super sub in Courtney Heffren, who sped 2:27.8 on the second leg.
Alexi Fogo’s 2:25.8 third leg gave two-time state cross country champion Emma Argo a 40-meter lead which she preserved with a 2:22.8 split. Tessa Wiegand led off in 2:28.7. Their previous best was 10:04.19.
Despite being handed the lead, Argo, an Illinois State recruit, ran scared as usual.
“That definitely happened today,” she said. “That (Grober’s illness) definitely was surprising. We just had to adjust. Huge props to Courtney to just jump in like that having never run an 800 indoors or an 800 this season. That was amazing.”
Finishing second in 9:50.92 was University High with Mackie Madix (2:29.7), Emmy Mussey (2:29.7), Kendy Ummel (2:28.9) and Ella Bittner (2:21.5).
“I remember hearing 9:50 in the sectional last year, so to beat it this early in the season feels great,” said Bittner, who later took fourth in the 1,600 in 5:14.34. “I’m really excited to see what the season holds for our team. The third lap, I went for (Argo), but the gap was just too much.”
Also second were Eureka’s boys in the 800 relay (1:33.49) and 1,600 relay (3:32.68). The 800 relay included Job Knapp, Aden Sears, Hunter Gladson and Micah Senior while the 1,600 relay featured Knapp (54.1), Sears (52.7), Connor Standish (54.2) and Senior (51.7).
“They had a good showing today,” said Eureka coach Brett Charlton. “They had a great indoor season. They broke two school records (at 1:33.49 and 3:28.95). This helps prepare them mentally for outdoors.”
U High’s Jessica McDowell clocked an indoor personal best of 1:00.12 for third in the 400. She ran in the same heat as runner-up Akira Custer of Carbondale (59.68).
“I think having her there pushed me to run a lot faster,” said McDowell, who will attend the University of Illinois.
Other area placers were Eureka’s Amy Pineda in the 2A long jump (5th, 16-10¼), Normal Community’s Reed Wilson in the 3A pole vault (6th, 13-8) and Kailah Carter in the 400 (7th, 59.90), Bloomington’s Kelise Johnson in the 3A shot put (5th, 40-1½), Drew Crooks in the long jump (6th, 21-3¾) and Nick Doud in the 3,200 (7th, 9:24.41).