Oak Park and River Forest High School senior Josh Meister holds the sign showing his pole vault height cleared at the Huskie Indoor Invitational Feb. 18. Meister's 16'1" mark set a new school record in the event, surpassing the 15'9" established by Peter Geraghty in 2009. | Todd Phillips

Oak Park and River Forest High School boys track and field athlete Josh Meister had a historic day at the OPRF Indoor Invitational on Feb. 18.

Meister, a senior, cleared 16 feet, 1 inch in the pole vault to establish a new school record in the event. The previous record of 15-9 was set by Peter Geraghty in 2009. The vault is the highest in Illinois this year in Class 3A and tied for the highest in all classes. It’s also good for 13th in the country.

“It was really incredible,” Meister said. “I thought it was awesome how the entire fieldhouse was just completely silent and then started cheering the second I got over the bar. It was an amazing feeling.”

With the event championship already in the bag, Meister had his choice of heights and first selected 15-10. After clearing that to set a new school record, he raised it three more inches – and cleared that as well.

“He probably padded his record for a long time to come,” said OPRF coach Tim Hasso. “I’ve been here 23 years and never seen the bar higher than the balcony [of the fieldhouse].”

OPRF assistant coach Kirsten Weismantle works with the Huskies’ pole vaulters and felt confident Meister would make it because of his approach.

Oak Park and River Forest High School senior Josh Meister clears the bar during the Huskie Indoor Invitational Feb. 18. Meister cleared 16’1″ to set a new OPRF record in the pole vault, surpassing the previous mark of 15’9″ set by Peter Geraghty in 2009. | Todd Phillips

“This season, he’s really coming out of his shell and I’m trying to push him into more of a leadership role,” she said. “It’s a natural progression for Josh because if he’s going to be a leader and bring us valuable points, it’s important to be able to mentor other athletes.”

Meister set a goal of being more consistent this year and said that’s what he thought about when he decided to go for the record.

“I’ve been having good consistency in practice in trying to beat my personal record [of 15-6],” he said. “Once I got that taken care of, I felt I should really go for a number that would break a record, and I wanted to make sure I keep it for a long time.”

Weismantle, a former Huskies’ pole vaulter herself, said the biggest tests will come when the outdoor season starts. How Meister copes with the elements outdoors is important.

“You’ve got to deal with the runway and the pit as well as the wind, time and temperature,” she said. “Last year, we had a rough time being able to jump outdoors since we had a late winter, so being able to move indoors to outdoors and not lose height is key. We want to keep building, and I have high hopes he’ll be able to clear the Fieldhouse record [16-7] before he goes.”

Meister said the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is showing great interest during recruiting. Hasso added that’s “just the tip of the iceberg.”

“I expect my phone to be blowing up these next few weeks,” he said. “Going over 16 feet is going to open up a lot of doors for this young man.”

Meister will compete March 4 in the Windy City Summit at Rolling Meadows High School. It’s an event featuring the top vaulters in the state.

“That’s a big one for Josh, and hopefully he’ll be able to hit 16 and above again,” Weismantle said.

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