Kyle Kruthoff’s dream of a second consecutive Class 1A pole vault state championship nearly came crashing to the ground on a windy day in Edgington.
Kruthoff, an Erie High School senior, was competing for the Erie-Prophetstown boys track & field team on April 16 at a quadrangular hosted by Rockridge. He had soared over the bar at two lower heights with relative ease, and now had his sights set on a second attempt at 15 feet.
After getting up in the air, however, Kruthoff realized he was going to come up short of the bar. Then it became about damage control.
“I could have picked either landing on the ground or the mat, so I picked the mat,” Kruthoff said. “I landed on the corner of the mat, and that’s where I twisted my [right] ankle. I didn’t feel a pop or anything, but I landed, and right away the pain shot up my leg. I tried walking on it, and I could barely walk on it.
“Rockridge’s trainer came over to look at it and she was like, ‘Well, I can’t really tell if it’s broken or not, so you might want to get an X-ray.’”
Kruthoff went to an urgent care clinic, where an X-ray came back clean for broken bones.
He decided against getting an MRI, and guessed it was merely a sprained ankle.
The clinic provided a walking boot that he wore for about 10 days, then he wore a brace on the ankle for about 2½ weeks after that.
By May 1, it was time to resume practicing. He got in 2 days of vaulting, then competed at the John McCormick Invitational at Geneseo on Friday, May 3. He vaulted just twice, won the competition by clearing 14 feet, then was shut down by the E-P coaching staff.
Next up was the Three Rivers Conference meet on May 10 in Princeton. He again was limited to two vaults, cleared 15-0 on the second of those, and took first place.
At the Sherrard Sectional on May 16, Kruthoff continued his upward climb. He won with a vault of 16-0, a mere 1 inch short of his outdoor best achieved on April 13 at the Hub Relays in Rochelle.
On Tuesday morning, Kruthoff went to his final physical therapy session for the ankle injury and was given a clean bill of health. He now has his sights set on the state meet that begins Thursday in Charleston.
Kruthoff won a 2018 state championship by clearing 15-6, and enters this year’s meet as the favorite. His sectional height of 16-0 is a full foot higher than the next vaulters, Williamsville’s Cameron Witts and Sullivan’s Jadon Nuzzo, who each cleared 15-0 at their sectionals.
Kruthoff has a title in his sights, as well as the Class 1A record of 16-3, set by Carlinville’s Jack Denby in 2014 and equaled by Casey-Westfield’s Riley Smith in 2015.
“That’s the big goal, to go back to state and win it again,” Kruthoff said. “It would be nice to get the [Class 1A] record, which is 16-3. I’ve just got to go up a couple of inches there, so hopefully I can do that.”
Next year, Kruthoff will continue vaulting at the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, and plans to major in Fire Science. His long-range goal is to become a fireman, and he’s already getting some on-the-job training.
For the past 9 months, Kruthoff has been a member of the Albany Volunteer Fire Department. A great uncle who was a fire chief in Clinton, Iowa, steered him in that direction.
“I had planned on a being a welder, but then I was like, ‘There’s no way I’m going to this for the rest of my life,’” Kruthoff said. “My great uncle said I should look into firefighting. I was able to go on a couple of ride-alongs with some area departments, and I absolutely loved it.”
Kruthoff messaged some friends who were on the Albany Fire Department, asking what the requirements were. He underwent a 6-month probationary period that included various training, and for the last 3 months, has been a full member of the department.
On Tuesday morning, Kruthoff was part of a crew that went to the scene of a car accident.
“I get to go on calls, and I’m learning a lot,” Kruthoff said.