CHARLESTON – Kyle Kruthoff entered the Class 1A Boys State Track & Field Meet as a bit of a marked man.
After all, the Erie-Prophetstown junior had the top pole vault height by a full 9 inches heading into Thursday’s preliminary round.
It was almost a shockingly quick exit for the Panther.
Kruthoff did make the cut of 13 feet, 3 inches, but only after beginning his competition with a pair of misses that put him on the brink of elimination.
Kruthoff made 15-6 at last week’s Erie Sectional, with the next-best sectional vault being 14-9 by Sullivan’s Jadon Nuzzo. On Thursday, Kruthoff passed on the starting height of 11-6, as well as 12-0 and 12-6, before entering the competition at 13-0.
He then proceeded to miss twice.
“It was my plant,” Kruthoff said. “I wasn’t getting a big enough plant, and I was coming down shallow and landing on the bar. People said I was 3 feet over it. They said I was getting 16-feet jumps. Nerves kicked in after I missed the first two times, but then I made it, so that was good.”
After one miss at 13-3, Kruthoff soared over the bar at that height, which turned out to be cutoff for advancement. Fourteen vaulters remain in the competition, including a relieved Kruthoff.
“My parents were joking about it,” Kruthoff said. “They were like, ‘All right, you got all your bad jumps out of the way today.’ Now it’s time to focus on Saturday.”
Oregon’s Ian Hussung stamped himself as one of the more versatile distance runners by advancing to the finals in the 800 and 1,600.
His specialty is the 800, and he comfortably moved on with a time of 1:58.29. He has a personal best of 1:55.55, achieved at the Big Northern Meet, and a time he’ll likely need to match if he is to hang with a loaded field.
In the 1,600, a race Hussung is less experienced in, he shattered his previous best with a 4:23.92. It shaved more than 5 seconds off a 4:29.5 he ran earlier this season.
“Our school record is 2 seconds away from that, and I would love to get that in the finals,” Hussung said. “Including this race, that’s maybe my sixth mile this year. They just decided to put me in it, and I’m glad they did.”
It was a mixed bag for Forreston-Polo, which was dominant in the regular season and had been expected to contend for a state trophy, but will be hard-pressed to achieve that.
The top Cardinal was senior AJ Christensen, who turned in field-best times in the 110 high hurdles and 300 intermediate hurdles.
Christensen posted a 14.54 in the 110 hurdles, .01 ahead of Colfax Ridgeview’s Mason Barr.
In the 300 hurdles, Christensen blazed to a time of 37.91. He will be a prohibitive favorite in the finals of that race, as Barr was in the fieldhouse adjacent to O’Brien Field and did not hear the call for the competitors in the 300 hurdles to assemble. He arrived as racers were already in the blocks – and too late to race.
Christensen has the prelims’ top time by nearly a full second ahead of Salt Fork’s Caine Wilson, who ran a 38.83.
“Obviously I was in the zone,” Christensen said. “I’ve just got to attack the hurdles and try to do my best.”
Christensen was also part of a 1,600 relay team that moved on with a time of 3:27.48, good enough for the ninth (and last) spot in the finals. Evan Kelsey, Brady Webb and Cailean Davids ran the first three legs of the race.
Webb went 21-9 to advance in the long jump. He has a personal best of 22-7, and will be looking for that type of performance in the finals.
“I was reaching on the board a little bit, and that affected me getting up in the air,” Webb said. “That’s very key for me, so I’ve got to work on that [today].”
The Cardinals’ Jace Coffey advanced to the finals in the discus with a toss of 146-5. He’s in eighth place among 12 finalists.
Forreston-Polo left some potential points off the board, however, in key areas. High jumper Christian Groenewold went just 5-11, after making 6-2 at the sectional. That height was the cut to advance to Saturday.
Reid Taylor, expected to be a factor in the triple jump, scratched twice before retiring. He suffered a foot injury in the 800 relay at the Oregon Sectional last week, and is not close to being 100 percent.
In the 400 relay, leadoff runner Kelsey jumped the gun, and a relay that was expected to be among the leaders was disqualified.
Bureau Valley and Amboy-LaMoille each had one athlete advance to the finals.
The Storm’s Austin Wierzbicki went 21-3 1/2 in the long jump, and currently stands eighth among 12 finalists.
The Clippers’ Thomas Stamberger turned in a time of 2:00.23 in the 800. Stamberger had run a 2:03.72 at the sectional.