Paul Migas connects on a 15'2" clearance at the 2022 D117 Clash at the Coliseum
TOP RETURNING INDOOR PERFORMERS
The Boys' Pole Vault in Illinois is already an
event that has garnered attention nationally and will continue to do so with
an infusion of new talent to an already top-heavy field in our state.
Of course, the conversation must begin with the top athlete in the freshman class for any event, both genders. Isaiah Whitaker (Fr., Bloomington Central Catholic) made his first round of many headlines in August 2022 when his 16-2 clearance set the world record for a 14-year-old, as well as the AAU 15-16 age group national record. This age group record is a record, not even current senior world record holder Mondo Duplantis ever broke! Whitaker played football for Central Catholic this year, a traditional pole vault power, and will be elective in his competitions in-state. He has already put 16-1 on the board for this season from Louisville but was not cleared from concussion protocol in time to compete in Illinois at the Misfits Invite where 16-5.25 won the event. One of the great headlines this season will be Whitaker's journey against national competition as a freshman.
The incumbent strength in the state is not about to let Whitaker completely take over, however, and that returning strength begins with Paul Migas (Jr., Lake Villa (Lakes)). Migas took home the 2A state title in 2022 and went on to vault an all-time best 15-11 at New Balance Outdoor Nationals to finish fourth. Migas bested that height already by just about a centimeter at the Misfits Invite to finish second. Like Whitaker, Migas already has his sights set on national competition. Unfortunately, with Migas in 2A and Whitaker in 1A, these two will not meet head-to-head officially at Top Times or state, but of course, all fans will be comparing these two in their performances to see who Illinois' king of Pole Vault is.
Migas won't walk to another state title, though. In 2022, Migas had to fend off Mt. Vernon's Tanner Koontz who made attempts past 15-01. Koontz graduates but a host of challengers return.
Cooper Schaad (Jr., Geneseo) looks to be Migas' chief competitor. Although he missed at 15-01 to fall out of the state title mix, Schaad cleared 15-6.25 at sectionals the week before and has already started his season by finishing 3rd at Misfits (14-11.5). Schaad went out with Kyle Hensley (Sr., Mt. Zion) and Drew Fehr (Sr., Fairbury (Prairie Central)) who will be pushing the 15-foot mark as well (Hensley did pass 15' in 2022).
At 3A, the favorite entering this indoor season is junior Nick Pennington (Neuqua Valley). Pennington was one of only two underclassmen to medal in 3A, and he finished second to the dominant 16' performance from Charles Cruse. Pennington vaulted no better than 13-7 indoors last year and entered the state with a 14-1.75 seeding. The Wildcat rode personal best performances in the prelim (14-3.25) and then a breakout in the final (15-3) to finish second. The marker of success will be different now for Pennington as he has a target on his back.
The other returners from that state final were Kyle Eppenstein (Sr., Plainfield South) and Tyler Petersen (Sr., Bloomington). A notable omission from the 3A final was Zachary Galvicious (Jr., McHenry). Galvicious managed 14-6.75 during the season but did not pass 13' at state prelims. He will be back and better this year.
A newcomer to watch is Heath Hawkins (Jr., Pekin). Hawkins' best prior to this season was 13-9.25 from outdoors 2022. He jumped 13-1 in December to start his indoor season but posted a massive 14-5.5 best at Misfits to finish top five. With the wide-open vault field in 3A, this immediately puts him into the conversation state-wide, and he is currently IL#4.
Honorable Mention: Joshua Meister (Sr., OPRF), Charlie Gentle (Jr., Maroa-Forsyth), Esad Sengun (Sr., Schaumburg), Evan Alexander (Sr., Rochester), Tony Keene (Jr., Harrisburg), Gabriel Benkers (Sr., Batavia)