ISU freshman hurdler sets school record in Gibson Invitational

Apr. 20—Determined Indiana State freshman Rachel Mehringer set a school record in the women's 100-meter hurdles — posting the same time she did in winning the 2023 IHSAA state finals, 13.38 seconds — and both Sycamore teams emerged with championships in the annual Gibson Invitational meet on a windy, slightly chilly Saturday at the Gibson Track & Field Complex.

In the men's meet, ISU outscored runner-up Milwaukee 195-75.33. For the women, the Sycamores defeated second-place DePaul 208.5-144.

Mehringer, a Forest Park High School graduate, admitted that she took a nasty tumble during warmups Saturday. But she was able to block that out of her mind to win the 100 hurdles.

"[Coach] Angie [Martin] calmed me down," Mehringer told the Tribune-Star. "She was trying to make sure I stayed calm because I felt really good at practice all week, so we were really excited to have a meet this weekend."

Mehringer acknowledged that continuing to focus on winning was difficult following her pre-race fall.

"You have to go into a race knowing anything can happen," she pointed out. "And you have to be ready for anything to happen."

Mehringer did not lead at the beginning of the hurdles.

"One of my teammates, [fifth-year senior] Riley Tuerff, beat me out of the blocks," Mehringer explained. "And one of the girls next to me beat me out, so I had to fight for it. I think I got control between [hurdles] 1 and 2. There was a girl next to me [Milwaukee junior Natalie Block, who finished in 13.44] who stayed close."

The previous ISU mark of 13.48 was set by Carmelia Stewart in 2014. Mehringer, whose best time this season had been 13.62, realized right when she saw her time Saturday that it matched her personal record from the IHSAA state finals last year.

Looking ahead, she hopes to trim a little more time heading into the Missouri Valley Conference outdoor championships May 10-12 at the same Gibson complex and qualify for the NCAA outdoor championships June 5-8 at Eugene, Ore.

Asked about her long-term goals, Mehringer playfully replied: "I don't know yet. I'll just go where it takes me."

On Saturday, Mehringer also placed fifth in the women's 200-meter dash, although that's not her specialty.

Other ISU females who placed first in the meet, which started Thursday and continued Friday before its conclusion Saturday, were Rachel Conhoff (3,000 steeplechase), Morgan Dyer (5,000 run), Hannah Redlin (discus), Kennedy Merrell (pole vault), Lillian Gibbs (javelin throw) and its 4-by-100 relay squad consisting of Janiya Bowman, Michelle McDonald, Collette Wolfe and Angel Thomas.

On the men's side, the Sycamores' individual winners were Elias Foor (discus and invitational hammer throw), Will Staggs (pole vault), Jason Dworak (1,500 run), Brett Norton (shot put), Lawrence Mitchell (high jump), Shomari Rogers-Walton (long jump) and their 4-by-100 relay foursome of Casey Hood Jr., Daunte Majors, Isiah Thomas and Tahj Johnson.

Probably ISU's highest-profile male athlete in track and field is Staggs, a junior who set a meet record (as did Mehringer) in the men's pole vault with a successful attempt at 17 feet, 5 inches. Then he missed his three tries at 18-1.75, which would have eclipsed his outdoor school record of 17-10.50.

"I'm not too disappointed," he said afterward. "That [18-1.75] would have been an all-time p.r. [personal record] for me. ... The weather today wasn't great for the pole vault. There was kind of a swirly wind and it was kinda cold."

Staggs plans to be a five-time MVC champion in the pole vault (three indoors already, including 2024, and one outdoors, finishing second behind Northern Iowa's Brendan Safley in 2023), so he's maintaining tunnel-vision focus on May 10-12. He also wants the male Sycamores to capture the team title for the sixth straight time (including this year's indoors championship in Chicago).

"I have the highest mark in the conference so far [this season]," Staggs noted, adding that he has a little bit of a chip on his shoulder because Safley will be back to defend his outdoor crown. "I feel like I'm the best vaulter in the Valley. I feel like I've shown that throughout the regular season."

Gazing into his imaginary crystal ball, Staggs would like to qualify for the NCAA outdoor nationals and improve on his ninth-place finish at the NCAA indoors last month at Boston.

"I'm always hungry," Staggs emphasized. "I'm a competitor. I want to go to the outdoor [national] meet and really see what I can do."

"He does like challenges," Martin confirmed about Staggs.

Overall, Martin sounded pleased with the efforts of Staggs, Mehringer, Foor and the rest of the Sycamores.

"It was a good home meet," she told the Tribune-Star. "We had some great marks. We had a school record broken. We had good efforts on Senior Day. I was really happy to see some of our seniors compete well."

Near the latter part of the meet, Martin helped honor the 30 seniors from the ISU men's and women's rosters.

Also worth mentioning from the Gibson Invitational were two first-place finishes from Rose-Hulman senior Jailen Hobbs, an NCAA Division III sprinter who went against plenty of DI runners Saturday. His winning times were 10.38 in the 100 and 21.41 in the 200.

Hobbs, also a four-year standout wide receiver and kick returner for the Engineers' football squad, has said recently he intends to transfer to another school for one more year of track eligibility. Last month, he placed third in the men's 60-meter dash in the D-III indoor nationals at Virginia Beach, Va.