SJ-O's Rydell shows way

MONTICELLO — The weather was less than ideal.

Before the meet began, coaches and athletes already were conceding there wouldn’t be many personal bests set and likely no records broken on a day that saw temps fall into the 30s and stretches of light rain as the meet carried on.

Still, a few runners, jumpers and throwers managed to shine through the cloudy conditions at the Monticello boys’ track and field invitational Friday.

St. Joseph-Ogden’s Eric Rydell kicked off the 19-team meet, finishing tied for first with Newton’s Blake Ebeling in the high jump. The two seniors cleared 5 feet, 10 inches.

St. Thomas More’s Cole Schluter finished third and Rantoul’s Damontae Space claimed fourth in the event.

“With the cold and the wind, it’s tough,” Rydell said. “I just try to get a good warmup in and perform as well as I can.”

Rydell also competed in the triple jump, where he finished third behind second-place Jordan Feagin of Arthur-Lovington/Atwood-Hammond and winner Tyler Rubarts of Paxton-Buckley-Loda, who recorded a jump of 40 feet, 101/2 inches.

Rydell said he wasn’t even looking for anything close to his 6-foot-3 personal best in the high jump in Friday’s conditions.

“(The scores) are a little bit low today,” he said.

In the pole vault, Monticello senior Luke Zimmerman tied his personal best of 13 feet, which was good enough to win.

SJ-O freshman Matthew Knipfer finished second at 12 feet, and Unity’s David Wenzel earned third after clearing 11-6.

While the competitive juices were flowing, the top duo didn’t hesitate sharing tips and encouragement during the competition.

“In the winter we would both train in the Armory and Luke would also vault at my house on occasion,” Knipfer said.

Knipfer felt loose at the start of the meet but said the cold weather affected him just as it did everyone else.

“Sometimes I just wouldn’t have a run that was very favorable,” he said.

“I had some decent vaults at the lower height, but once I got to 12-6 I stalled out a little bit.”

Zimmerman had three attempts at setting a personal best of 13-6, but he clipped the bar in his best and final attempt at that mark.

“I didn’t expect to do that well out here with the weather, but I just got to feeling good there at the end,” Zimmerman said.

In other field events, PBL’s Rubarts won the long jump at 19-9. Monticello’s Josh Burton took second.

Villa Grove’s Ryan Pearce continued his strong senior season winning  the shot put (55-9) and discus (158-10).

Stephen Gibson of Tuscola took second behind Pearce in both events.

On the track, PBL senior Zac Weisenbarn won the 200 meters in 23.4 seconds as his freshman teammate, Paul Bigham, finished a half-second behind him.

The senior-freshman duo has packed quite a punch so far this season for the Panthers’ sprint squad.

Weisenbarn said the two push each other in practice and it shows when they get to compete against other teams.

“We always encourage whoever gets first as long as it’s for the team,” he said.

Looking at the two runners, it’s easy to confuse the taller Bigham for the veteran. But it’s the shorter Weisenbarn leading the way.

“It’s a freshman-senior thing, though,” Weisenbarn said. “I’m going out; he’s coming in.”

In other results, Unity’s Micah Johnson took first in the 100, while Weisenbarn finished second.

Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley freshman Nick Meunier (400 meters), St. Thomas More’s Sam Powers (800), STM’s Nick Hess (1,600 and 3,200) and Rantoul’s Cord Church (110 hurdles) all won individual races.

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