BLOOMINGTON – Just in case someone thought Riley McInerney was not concerned when falling behind, he was.
“Going into the last couple of laps I thought ‘man, he really got me,’ ” the Charleston senior said. “I kept telling myself he had beaten me. With two laps I kept gaining ground. Luckily my kick got me through.”
McInerney’s strong finishing kick was good for the Class 2A 1,600-meter victory at Saturday’s Illinois Prep Top Times Indoor Classic Class at Illinois Wesleyan University’s Shirk Center.
In this meet considered the indoor state championships, the Charleston runner topped the list of strong Coles County performances that included the Trojans’ Chase Black taking second in the boys’ pole vault, Mattoon’s girls’ 4x800 relay team placing fourth, the Lady Green Wave’s Megan Shaffer sixth in the 1,600 and Charleston’s Kelsie Abolt sixth in the girls’ pole vault with a school record height.
While Chad Miller started having his doubts, Charleston’s boys’ track coach was glad McInerney was the one running the race.
“It was just sheer will,” Miller said. “He wanted it and went for the win. He let the other kid take the lead. He was able to run a smart race. I thought he was going to run out of real estate. I didn’t think he had enough room but he ran a great last 50 meters.”
McInerney clocked a time of 4 minutes, 18.48 seconds topping the school record of 4:19 set by Tom Titus in 1975.
Signed to run for Eastern Illinois, McInerney’s strong finishing kick edged runner-up Marc Maton of Chatham Glenwood. The nephew of Jim Maton who won an 800-meter NCAA indoor championship running for EIU, Marc Maton had a time of 4:20.57.
“His strategy is always to run a smart race,” Miller said. “Riley always has a strategy. He was able to run from behind.”
Saturday’s race was not exactly the blueprint set by McInerney and his father, John, a former EIU standout runner who now serves as Charleston’s assistant coach.
“My dad and I had talked about not letting any gaps happen,” said McInerney, who entered the meet with the best 2A qualifying time of 4:20.13 while Maton was seeded second at 4:21.42. “We had prepared for it but he just broke me pretty good. I couldn’t keep up until the end.”
“Right from the second lap Maton just took off on me. I just sat back and sat back and I just kicked.”
McInerney has used his strong finish in the past including last fall’s Apollo Conference cross country meet when he made up a big distance to beat Mount Zion’s Jake Brown, who placed fifth in Saturday’s 1,600 in 4:26.53.
“I think I do have a little bit of natural speed but that’s not the main part,” McInerney said. “The last couple of years I’m very fortunate to have EIU right here so once a week I can go to the indoor track and work on my leg speed in the mile.”
Black cleared 14 feet, 6 inches to take second in the boys’ pole vault won by Stanford Olympia’s Tyler Ginger at 15-0.
“Chase had a good day,” Miller said. “He had some really good jumps at the 15-foot mark. But second place was a really good victory. We were hoping to get 15 before the indoor season ended. We didn’t get that but he’ll definitely have more opportunities to get that.”
Abolt bettered her own school record going 11-0 in the girls’ pole vault won by Bloomington Central Catholic’s Sarah Bell at 13-3.
“Kelsie Abolt had the best jump of her high school career of 11 feet,” Miller said. “It was a very good day for all three athletes.”
Mattoon posted the best indoor girls’ 4x80o time in school history with a 9:52.1 for fourth place with Monticello winning at 9:50.31.
“All four girls ran great,” Mattoon coach Troy Haacke said. “Victoria Drake was right with the pack with a 2:28. Megan Shaffer moved us into first place with a 2:24. Michaela Drake probably ran best race of her life with a 2:35. She just fought like crazy and was in second. Then Taylor Smith ran a great 2:22. Some of those times were right at or better than what they ran at the state last year.”
Haacke also noted that other girls had run the 4x800 earlier this season helping the Lady Wave qualify for this meet bringing the state’s best indoor performers to Bloomington.
Cassy Shaffer and Whitney Maninfior ran the relay in the team’s first indoor meet and Lauren McCain was part of the team that ran the 10:03 to earn a spot in the Prep Top Times Classic.
Megan Shaffer ran a 5:15.86 for her sixth place in the 1,600.
“That’s a super fast time especially indoors,” Haacke said. “The school record is 5:12. She is knocking on the door of that. That race was a great race. Some made her move a little earlier and then she held off a couple of girls making late charges on her.”
Mattoon also earned a spot in the meet’s 4x400 where it placed 11th with a 4:21.65 time.
Kady Gentry ran a 1:03 split and Smith, Victoria Drake and Megan Shaffer completed the team with Shaffer running after short rest following her 1,600.
Outdoor seasons are scheduled to begin Saturday when Mattoon is at the Greenville Invitational and Charleston at the Teutopolis Invitational.