Danville's Williams gets good lesson in his races

Danville's Williams gets good lesson in his races

URBANA — Quemarii Williams crossed the finish line drenched in sweat in the 400-meter dash, but not for the most obvious reason.

Rounding the corner with about 150 meters to go in the 400 dash, Williams felt himself tense up running neck-and-neck with Argenta-Oreana's Makail Stanley and ultimately lost by two-hundredths of a second in the end — as Stanley threw his body forward and came tumbling to a stop on the track.

For Williams, though, The News-Gazette's 38th annual Honor Roll track and field meet on Monday night was more about conditioning than breaking any records. Or rather, reconditioning after a vomit-inducing illness wore him down last weekend.

"I just got a little tense up there with about 150 left, but it felt good," Williams said. "I've been sick, been recovering from a cold ... so I'm just getting back on track."

Stanley, who also took seventh in the 200, clocked in at 49.21 seconds and edged out a 49.23 from Williams as both times fell within range of the 49.1 meet-record time set in 1983. Not that Williams has anything to prove in that regard, considering he has run a season-best 48.76 this year.

Williams finished up Monday with a fourth-place clocking in the 200 (22.94) along with helping the Vikings' 400 relay to a runner-up finish alongside teammates Oshar Wilson, David Moss and Walter Stanford. But undoubtedly, the 400 is Williams' specialty, and he isn't shy about admitting it.

The trick now heading deeper into the postseason comes down to making sure he is at his healthiest, which means reestablishing his diet, staying hydrated and squeezing in his routine of workouts without letting the lingering cold hold him back.

"My strength is the whole race," Williams said about his approach to preventing future tense-ups late in races. "I just need to find a medium. I need to prepare myself mentally for that last stretch."

While Williams and Stanley kept things interesting down to the wire, Prairie Central's Chandlar Ifft drew spectators' attention to the pole vault pit for a different type of competition: one with himself.

Ifft could feel in warmups that Monday was going to be one to remember.

His steps on the runway were smooth and even, he was landing in the pit at his desired depth and the pull at the top of his vault was strong.

He refused to let early confidence psyche him out, though, as he continued to add height.

"I just wanted to clear some big bars," Ifft said following his record-setting victory in the event. "Whenever I set myself for a specific bar, I don't always do as well. I don't think it's a mental thing. It just happens."

The approach worked for Ifft, who cleared a height of 16 feet, 6 inches to win the event over Sullivan runner-up Jadon Nuzzo (14-3) and drew oohs and ahs from numerous fans as he kept raising the bar.

Not only did he put more than two feet of distance between himself and the rest of the field, but also managed to break his own meet record — 15-6 — set during last year's meet.

"I just knew (Monday) was going to be a great day to take some shots at big bars. I just needed a pretty big pull," Ifft said. "I mostly shut everything else out around me (when I compete) ... but it was harder to do that as the bar kept going up."

Dreams of state seem more likely to become a reality after Monday's showing, as his result is more than three feet above the Class 2A qualifying standard in the event. But while oftentimes competing against himself is something Ifft considers "humbling," he isn't planning to ease up, either.

"I'm going for that state title," Ifft said, smiling.