CHESTERTON | High jumping is a hobby, showing cattle is a lifestyle.
The latter earned Lowell’s Allison Manchester a full ride to college, the former is just the event she is the region’s best at doing.
For the third time in four years Manchester was the regional champion of the high jump, clearing 5 feet, 4 1/4 inches and amassing the fewest scratches to win the Chesterton Regional on Tuesday night.
The senior will make her fourth state finals appearance June 1 in Bloomington, and then she’ll probably never practice a four- or five-step approach again.
“I’m going to have to have the drive to do it,” said Manchester. “I just have to want it and go in focused.”
A gymnast for five years before high school, Manchester only does the high jump in track and field, her lone sport.
“I’m naturally built to have the muscle to do it,” she said.
“(Tonight) no one was jumping great. We were all kind of off.”
Manchester has a full scholarship to attend Butler Community College in Kansas, where she’ll major in agricultural communication and participate in livestock judging. She’s been showing cattle since she can remember, and her dad grew up the same way.
Manchester wasn’t the only one-event specialist who shined on Tuesday.
Rensselaer’s Chelsie Meeks, three weeks removed from a sprained MCL, defeated 2011 state runner-up Nakel McClinton of Merrillville in the discus with a heave of 138 feet, 11 inches. McClinton was second for the second year in a row.
“I still have some work to do, but with a week and a half until state I should be able to get it done,” Meeks said. “There was good competition tonight, and it was friendly.”
Meeks, a junior who placed fifth at state last year, has only lost once this year, by 5 inches to defending state champ Cassie Wertman of Southridge.
Other athletes from the area are cherishing their first state berths.
Hobart sophomore Mindy Whidden surged at the finish to win the 400 meters, Munster senior Alex Meier dominated the 300 hurdles, and Bishop Noll senior Stephanie Rarick won the long jump.
Meier was agitated about failing to advance in the 100 hurdles and 400 relay and went to the start line mean-mugging all foes.
“I was pretty mad, and I wasn’t going to lose my best race,” Meier said. “I was really on fire and like, ‘This can’t continue happening.’”
Rarick became Noll’s first girls track state qualifier since 2008 with a season-best leap of 17 feet, 1/4 inch, good for third place behind Lake Central’s Kaitlyn Moricz and Portage’s Jade McKnight. Rarick missed a lot of time last year with plantar fasciitis in her plant foot and didn’t get far at the regional.
“Tonight’s competition made me aggressive,” Rarick said. “I’m really excited about state. I can’t even put into words how excited I am.”