Kaneland has qualified a pole vaulter to the state finals 30 straight years. This year a playoff series may be required simply to decide who gets a chance at No. 31.
Only two entries are permitted per event in the state series, and the Knights have three vaulters who have cleared at least 12 feet, 6 inches this outdoor season -- juniors J.R. Vest and Dylan Kuipers and last year's state qualifier, senior Kory Harner.
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"We're definitely close (friends) but we're also competitive. So when we're jumping we want to be the best. But outside of that we're all really close, we all hang out. It's like a brotherhood," said Harner.
Last year in Charleston Harner topped out at 13 feet in the Class 2A preliminaries, unable to reach the 14-foot minimum that sent vaulters into the finals.
Saturday at Kaneland's Peterson Prep Invitational Harner won the pole vault on misses over Kuipers, with Vest inactive. Both Harner and Kuipers cleared 12-9, Harner's best outdoors this season and three inches under Kuipers' best effort, 13-0 at Ottawa. Vest went 12-6 at Ottawa.
Due to poor weather and then the midweek rains, Kaneland vaulters didn't get in much practice time. They actually practiced as a unit after Saturday's track meet concluded.
"It's definitely tough," Harner said of the tight competition, which can also be found over at Geneva with Tim Guthrie, Dan Acton and James Carroll.
"You've just got to do your best every day in practice. You've got to prove your point," Harner said. "And if you get your chance you've got to take it, do the best you can."
At 12:59 p.m. during Kaneland's Peterson Prep Invitational it seemed minute snowflakes were swirling. Perhaps it was being conditioned to a wintry spring or a trick of the eye, because temperatures during the meet started at about 39 degrees and swelled to 47.
"Being able to have this meet is a bonus," said West Aurora coach Cortney Lamb. "It's pretty sad in April when you call 40 degrees a good day."
I love you, man:
Caught after the 200-meter dash final at Kaneland on Saturday, seniors Benny Prunty of West Aurora and Brandon Cottier of Kaneland were like a comedy duo. They'd known each other since meeting at a middle-school meet five years ago.
"It's been like a bro-ship for a long, long time," Prunty said.
"Bro-ship?" Cottier questioned.
"Friendship?" Prunty responded.
"I think they call it, like, a 'bro-mance,'" Cottier said.
"Shut up!" Prunty exclaimed. "We've had a bro-mance for like five years. We'll go with that."
Prunty won the 200 in 22.45 seconds, edging Dundee-Crown's Austin White, who beat Prunty in the preliminaries. Prunty's time was a shade over his personal-record 22.28 at the last year's DuPage Valley Conference meet. He's extra motivated to go downstate particularly after last year when the Blackhawks were unable to qualify a sprint relay at a very fast Naperville North sectional.
"I came into school the next day, like: 'You're only a junior. Forget about it, have a good off-season and be ready to go,'" Prunty said.
Now he's a senior.
"This tells me I'm almost to the mark where I should be for qualification, he said, but I still have a lot of work to do, still got to get some more 400s in -- being at practice every day, making sure I'm working hard enough. The goal is to get downstate for the first time in my track career in high school. Been close, but this is my year."
Kaneland's time of 8 minutes, 1.23 seconds in the 3,200-meter relay at the Peterson Prep was faster than the Knights' foursome that went 8:02.68 for an all-state ninth-place finish in Class 2A last year.
The goal, coach Eric Baron said Saturday, was to load the relay and analyze how the individual runners would fare the rest of the meet. The first half of that went exceedingly well as anchor Nathan Kucera crossed the finish line more than eight seconds ahead of second-place Oswego East.
By Baron's stopwatch, leadoff man Conor Johnson ran his two laps in 1 minute, 58.4 seconds. Kyle Carter followed at 1:59.90. Luis Acosta -- battling an upper respiratory problem, Baron said -- came through in 2:04.7, Kucera in 1:58.2.
"We suffered a little bit in our later races because we went so hard in that one," Baron said, "but we wanted to see what we could do after running a really hard race like that. (Going) 8:02, this meet, that's pretty fast, that's the fastest we've ever had a Kaneland squad run (this early). Pretty excited, pretty pleased about that."
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