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Cavanaughs eyeing longstanding high jump mark

No fear of new heights

Polo brothers Brian Cavanaugh (left) and Brad Cavanaugh are pushing each other to 
new heights in the high jump this spring. Both boys are chasing the school record of 6 
feet, 4 inches that was set by Mark Scholl in 1981.
Polo brothers Brian Cavanaugh (left) and Brad Cavanaugh are pushing each other to new heights in the high jump this spring. Both boys are chasing the school record of 6 feet, 4 inches that was set by Mark Scholl in 1981.

Prior to the Ogle County track meet on Tuesday in Rochelle, members of the Polo-Forreston boys track team were unloading gear and limbering up outside the football stadium.

A team member then chimed in, "Who's going to be the better Cavanaugh brother in the high jump today? Is little bro going to show up big bro."

For the record – yes. Brad Cavanaugh, a sophomore at Polo, won the event. He cleared 5 feet, 11 inches, the same height as his older brother Brian, but Brad won the event on fewer misses.

It was the latest in a series of competitions in which the Cavanaughs try to push each other to new heights. Don't look for any kind of bragging rights, however, for the winner.

When Brad had a season-best of 6-1 as a freshman, one inch higher than his brother's best, nary a taunting peep was uttered.

"I like to stay humble," Brad said.

This season, the Cavanaughs have more often than not been the class of high jump competitions they enter. They both have season bests of 6-2, achieved multiple times. Whoever wins on a given day, well, good for him.

"It's for the team, really," Brian said. "We don't care who wins it. We get points for the team, and it doesn't really matter who wins."

Something that does matter to the Cavanaughs is the Polo school high jump record. It is 6-4, achieved by Mark Scholl in 1981. Helping the brothers in their quest to get their names in the record book is none other than Scholl himself.

Scholl and the Cavanaughs' father, Kurt, have been best friends since second grade. When the Cavanaugh brothers showed an interest in the high jump, Scholl became their volunteer coach.

"I've known them both since they were born, saw them grow up," Scholl said, "and it wouldn't make me any prouder to have them break my record. It's been there long enough, and if I can help them out, I'd be happy to do it."

Scholl works with the brothers on getting their approaches right, being consistent with steps, getting good acceleration with the jump and achieving a proper arc over the bar. It doesn't always work out.

"I kind of chop a lot, and I do jump into the bar too, which doesn't help my case," Brad said.

When Brian cleared 6-2 at the Rock Falls Invitational on April 25 and was the last jumper standing, he had the bar moved up to 6-4 1/4 in an attempt to break Scholl's record.

"I didn't get too close, but it's always in the back of my mind," Brian said of those three failed attempts. "I want it, and so does Brad."

The high jump isn't the only event in which the Cavanaughs excel. Brian was a state qualifier in the triple jump a year ago, with a personal best of 42-6. His best so far this season is 41-2, which is actually ahead of where he was at this point a year ago.

The Cavanaugh brothers team with two Forreston athletes, Max Barkalow and Nathan Stukenberg, in the 400 relay. They have a season-best of 45.07.

Brooks Grobe, who is rounding into shape after battling a hip injury, subs for Brian in the 800 relay, and that group has a top time of 1:34.55.

Once the hybrid of Marco and Cardinal sprinters work out the kinks, according to Brian, watch out.

"We have to work together more," Brian said. "Once we have a feel for each other's handoffs and starts, we're going to be deadly."

For Polo coach Ryan Deets, working with brothers is nothing new. There are eight sets on this year's team: the Cavanaughs, Ethan and Jesse Ditzler; Miguel and Juan Dominguez; Joe and Preston Stapleton; Matt and Clinton Merlak; Kevin and Matthew Cheeseman; Brooks and Brody Grobe; and Ethan and Jacob Cain.

Deets was an assistant coach when the Geary twins, Michael and Shane, were tearing up the track before graduating in 2012.

"You always find that brothers push each other harder," Deets said, "and they get the best out of each other by doing that."

Brian Cavanaugh file

School: Polo

Class: Senior

FYI: 3-sport (football, basketball, track) athlete for Marcos. ... State qualifier in triple jump as junior. ... Will attend Illinois State this fall

Brad Cavanaugh file

School: Polo

Class: Sophomore

FYI: 3-sport (football, basketball, track) atlete for Marcos. ... Competes in HJ, TJ and sprint relays. ... Has personal best of 6-2 in high jump

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