Four-decade tradition of PV State presence still going strong
KANELAND—When you hit your 30s, you think you’ve seen most everything.
With Kaneland High School’s boys track squad on its way to the State finals in Charleston, Ill., this coming Friday, the program hopes there’s still amazing things on the pole vault side it hasn’t seen.
Beginning with a sixth-place finish from athlete Paul Johnson back in 1972, the pole vaulters have graced Kaneland with consistency and noteworthy heights. KHS hopes to continue that tradition with the duo of Dylan Kuipers and Dan Evers qualifying for the State finals. Kuipers’ 14 feet, 6 inch effort coupled with Evers’ 13-09 cinched the 32nd-straight season KHS has a State ticket in pole vault.
With three State champs and 27 all-State athletes, the Knights have found no shortage of elite personnel ready and willing to vault at Eastern Illinois University.
Boys pole vault coach Andy Drendel starts with the basics.
“No Kaneland vaulter has ever been hurt or put in a bad spot from vaulting. I take pride in teaching them how to be safe, and I don’t allow bad habits to form early on in their vault career. Having the right poles provided by our booster club has made my job easier. It allows me to focus on the vaulters’ technique so they can reach their full potential,” Drendel said.
Kuipers and Evers had a talent base and room to learn throughout their time at KHS.
“Dan Evers and Dylan Kuipers both were 5 feet tall and made 9’6 as freshmen, which is pretty average. They are now 15’3.5 and 13’9 vaulters and ranked top 10 in the state. They learned the proper form early on as freshmen, hit a growth spurt and physically matured. Since they already had a great technical base they developed as freshmen, they both developed very quickly when they grew into men,” Drendel said.
Evers, who is qualifying for the first time, is glad to go down there and not be the only Knight rep.
“I only got a 9-6 as a freshman, so to get State qualifying height is awesome,” Evers said. “As seniors, you’re determined to go down to State, so it’s great that we get to do this.”
Kuipers, who plans to join the vaunted North Central College track program next year after two EIU trips, feels the pole vaulters have always been on a different vibe.
“We have our own bond,” Kuipers said. “We’re with the team, but when it’s time for our event, it’s go time. It’s just us vaulters.”
With his first place at the Burlington Central Sectional, Kuipers’ approach made a difference.
“I didn’t put as much pressure on myself this second year,” Kuipers said. “I made the heights that I needed to, and that was a good start.”
Sam Kranz, member of the Class of 2007 and former University of Northern Iowa track athlete, was the last All-Stater, having reached a fourth place his senior year.
“I had a really good pole vault coach in Randy Oleson, and I expected to do well once I went down to State,” Kranz said. “My senior year, there was a lot of pressure on myself after having qualified three years. Dylan and Dan have their expectations going into it.”
Kranz still feels pride about the roster of vaulters he’s a part of.
“You go on the track website that they do an awesome job with and see the Top 50 list, and it’s really cool to see that,” Kranz said.
Class of 2013 member Kory Harner, who qualified three years in a row and attends Hope College in Holland, Mich., is mindful that determination and daring plays a sizable role.
“One year, I didn’t plant my first eight times. You just have to keep going, even if you have a bad practice or a bad meet,” Harner said.
The willingness to work stuck with Harner as part of the seemingly endless list of successful vaulters.
“Nobody gets by on sheer talent, it’s so completely different from anything. You see the tradition, you do the same drills and you build on it,” Harner said.
With a roster of vaulters tasting State since the Nixon administration, and consecutively since the 1980s, the event can only look forward.
“I love our KPV summer camp,” Drendel said. “In the past few years, I’ve had more kids from Geneva, St. Charles and Batavia come to my camp than Kaneland kids. I’ve asked those kids how they heard about my camp.”
“They said, ‘Everyone knows Kaneland has great vaulters.’”