Track and Field | Oak Lawn’s Robert Wagner gets jump on season with highest leap at Top Times
By Tim Cronin
BLOOMINGTON — Robert Wagner, with a name straight out of Hollywood, starred in the high jump at the Illinois Top Times meet, held March 25 at Illinois Wesleyan University. The only thing missing for the Oak Lawn senior was a spotlight — and, from Wagner’s viewpoint — breaking his indoor personal best of 6 feet, 7 inches.
Wagner had to settle for victory in Class 3A and a best clearance of 6 feet, 6¾ inches, beating Chris Taylor of Normal High, who cleared the same height but had one more miss. Both missed three jumps at 6 feet, 8 inches.
A year ago, Wagner placed fifth at Top Times, held annually at Wesleyan’s Shirk Center as the de-facto state championship to the indoor season. He credited coaching and plenty of reps for his improvement.
“I was sitting over the bar at 6-4 last year,” Wagner said. “After I got the arch down and holding it, they taught me things to say in my head as I held it and it very much helped.
“It might seem easy, but there’s more to it than jumping and being athletic. You need form, you need to figure out how high to raise your leg, when to arch, how long to hold it.”
Wagner, who rejoined the track team after the basketball season ended, nearly cleared 6-8. His best chance came on his second attempt, but his backside hit the bar as he started to come down.
The two-month outdoor track season will provide plenty of opportunities to get there, or as high as his new goal of 6-11 and the IHSA state finals in May. That is likely the next time he’ll have a crowd the size of the one at the packed Shirk Center.
“Being around this environment, everyone in the stands cheering for me, it’s nice,” Wagner said. “Outdoor, there’s going to be a lot of people watching.”
Marcus Kennedy of Brother Rice was fourth in the high jump at 6 feet, 4¼ inches.
It is routine for track athletes to compete in multiple events in the course of a meet, but to participate in two finals 12 minutes apart is another thing entirely.
Jaden Bossie of Mount Carmel doubled-up in sprint and hurdles races in the Class 2A portion of the meet, and while he did not triumph he earned something better than the shiniest medal.
“Confidence,” Bossie said. “I didn’t get the results I wanted; I gained confidence.”
Against the best collection of talent he’ll see until the state finals, Bossie blazed with a season-best 8.16 in his 60-meter hurdles heat, then took second in the final with 8.21 while nearly falling over the last hurdle.
That was only half the battle. A little more than 10 minutes later he was back in the starting blocks for the 60-meter dash. He took fifth in that in 7 seconds flat after qualifying in 7.09.
Bossie had to change both his stride and his mindset going from hurdles to the dash twice, first in qualifying and then in the final.
“I did it in the Catholic League (finals in 2022),” he said. “It’s a hard adjustment. You’ve got to give your best effort in both races. I’ve always been focused on hurdles. I’ve just gotten into the sprint events, so it’s pretty interesting to challenge myself.”
Other notable placers included Marist sophomore T.J. Girzadas, who took third in the pole vault at 14 feet 3¼ inches; Evergreen Park’s JaKobi Turner, who finished eighth in the 2A triple jump (40 feet, 5 inches)’ and Reavis’ Charles Campbell, who placed ninth in the 200 with a time of 23.04.
In girls events, Shepard sophomore Kyla Motley was sixth in the 60-meter hurdles (9.32), fifth in the triple jump (36 feet 8¼ inches) and 11th in the long jump (16 feet 5¼ inches). Stagg’s Amanda Pocica was 10th in the 800 (2:20.48) and Sandburg’s Carrington Landers ran 22nd in the 200 (26.66).
The Class A competition held March 24 included Chicago Christian junior Grace Mullin placing fourth in the 1,600-meter run with a personal best time of 5:16.31. Mullin also anchored the Knights’ 3,200-meter relay, which placed fifth in 10:15.02. The relay team also featured Mia Caporale, Kihra Mes and Anna Enderle.
For the boys, Knights freshman Zachary Van Wyk was 21st in the 60-meter hurdles (9.56) and junior Ryan Heard took 22nd in the 60-meter dash (7.57).
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