Bison senior soaring to new track & field heights
Kyle Craw had an amazing week heading into the Easter break, and he's probably carrying around a smile that measures about 14 feet, 6 inches high.
Craw rewrote the Bison boys pole vault school record twice in a span of 72 hours, and he will carry around the title -- at least in the near future -- of the best vaulter in McCook High School history.
The humble Bison senior set a new school mark in the pole vault at the Dutch Zorn Invitational Monday, April 18, at Gothenburg High School. Working in cold, windy conditions Monday evening, Craw was the final competitor to clear 14 feet even. After consulting with Bison vault coach Bill Ramsay, meet officials raised the bar to 14 feet, 4 1/2 inches -- a half-inch higher than the McCook school record set by Trent Lyons in 2004.
A few minutes later, Craw slapped his hands together and celebrated after he hit the mat and watched the cross bar stay on the uprights for a new Bison record.
Craw made three more good attempts at 14-8, but just couldn't clear the bar.
Monday's record was even more special when considering that Kyle was competing in temperatures in the 30s and a strong wind blowing across the runway at the end of the Gothenburg stadium.
Record lasts about 72 hours
Monday's Zorn Invite had been postponed Friday, April 15, due to snow and cold conditions, meaning Craw would compete Monday, then turn around and go at it again three days later at the Don Bader Memorial meet in Lexington.
In Thursday's competition, Craw and state pole vault leader Craig Driver of Minden were the only two competitors to successfully clear 14 feet. The bar was raised to 14-6, and both Craw and Driver cleared the height easily -- with the Bison senior increasing his school record by 1.5 inches.
Officials moved the bar to 14-10, and Driver easily got over that height, but Craw missed three times and had to settle for second place.
Driver entered Thursday's meet with a state-best mark of 15-4 in the vault. He bettered that at Lex when he flew over the bar at 15 feet, 5 1/2 inches.
Weather conditions at Lexington Thursday were much better compared to Monday at Gothenburg.
"It was chilly at first, then when the sun came out the wind came at our backs, so that was nice," Craw said. "That helped me out a lot."
Kyle through he made several good attempts at 14-10 Thursday.
"I got on a bigger pole and it was helping me out a lot," he said. "I felt like I was over it once, and I came down and hit my chest on it (the cross bar)."
Thursday was the first time Kyle tried the bigger pole, which is stiffer and harder to bend and doesn't allow him to so far into the pit as he is propelled up to the cross bar.
Thrilling, dangerous sport
The pole vault is an exciting track and field event to watch, but it's also dangerous. Vaulters can fly very high in the air in an attempt to successfully the cross bar -- and what goes up must come down.
Competitors use a flexible pole made of fiberglass or other similar materials. Carrying the pole down the runway, competitors grasp the pole with both hands and shove the bottom end into an angled box sunk into the end of the runway and located under the cross bar. The vaulter's forward speed is converted to vertical lift as the pole bends and the vaulter lays back and waits for the pole to straighten and thrust him or her up in the air.
Vaulters usually go over the bar feet first, rolling over the bar as they push off from the pole and try not to knock the cross bar off the standards. Most of the time, the competitors will come down and land either on their feet or backs on a special mat that is several feet thick and very wide to help ensure a safe and successful landing.
Each vaulter gets three attempts to successfully clear each height in the competition. Three misses at a height and the vaulter or vaulters drop out of the competition. The bar usually is raised in six-inch increments until one or two competitors remain, then it can go up by three or four inches or more, or in fractions of inches to try and break existing records as Kyle did last Monday.
A wild ride up and down
Very few high school track and field competitors break records twice in one week, so Kyle got to celebrate that great fete twice in the span of three days. He was asked his thoughts as he was catapulted high in the air, then came back down twice last week carrying new school records.
"It all happens so fast, but once you're falling (after clearing the bar) and you see the bar stay up there, it's an amazing feeling.
"It feels great. I got up with a big old smile on my face and walked off the mat."
Craw hopes to increase his Bison school record in the coming weeks.
"The next goal is to just keep going higher," he said.
Kyle said his next target height is 15 feet, and his next opportunity will come Friday, April 29, at the Holdrege Invitational.
Season winding down
The Bison track season is quickly winding toward the finish line. McCook is scheduled to compete at the Greater Nebraska Athletic Conference meet in Columbus May 5 in a final tune-up for the Class B-5 District meet on the Bison home field Thursday, May 12.
Craw's best vault mark in his junior year was 13 feet. He set a goal to clear at least 14 feet in his final prep season, and he wasted no time with that mark. Kyle went 14 feet at the season-opening UNK Indoor meet March 19 at the University of Nebraska-Kearney's Cushing Coliseum March 19. He suffered an ankle injury early in the season, but bounced back quickly to soar to record heights for the Bison.
State meet hopes
With 15 feet in mind, Craw also hopes for a return trip to the Class B state meet at Omaha Burke Stadium May 20-21. At last year's state competition, Craw cleared 13 feet even, tying with four other competitors at that height. But he ended up 10th and missed a state meet medal by two places as he had more misses in the state competition than the two 13-0 vaulters that ended up seventh and eighths.
Craw is hoping to continue his track and field career in college. He said Doane and UNK have shown interest. Clear 15 feet or higher, and Craw's list of college suitors will likely get longer.