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an article about the state meet for the Miamisburg news

Posted Tuesday, June 05, 2012 by Mike Hout
To many people, the state track and field meet is just a bunch of running and jumping and throwing.  The way I see it, though, is that the state meet is a unique family reunion of people who gather around the sport of track and field.  Anyone can go to the meet.  A select few get invitations to the infield festivities.  This year, I was fortunate enough to get an infield pass by virtue of Miamisburg's athlete Zak Kruer.  He won the Dayton regionals and went into the meet as the #9 pole vaulter.  Our dream was to somehow pull off an upset and be in the top eight.  That would mean he would get to stand on the podium, win a medal and bring home some points for the Vikings.

As we brought in our poles and set up chairs on the infield I looked over to see some Columbus Academy athletes run by.  They brought many memories back to me as I was a coach on the 1977 squad that won the state championship, the first in their school history.  I yelled at the boys and told them who I was and about my involvement 35 years ago.  They gave me a confused look as they continued their warm up.

This is my second year in a row with this "special pass".  We spent a whole year trying to forget about last year's state meet where Zak was very pumped and overpowered his poles so badly that he missed three tries at his opening height of 13-0.  Just like that we were out.  This year the starting height was an eye-popping 13-6.  We can't tell you how many meets this year where that would have been the winning height.  Today, 16 people start at that height.  There would be no room for error and thankfully Mr. Kruer was up for the challenge as he cleared it on his first jump.  We looked each other in the eyes and smiled.  We were both thinking the same thing......no nh beside his name this year.  In the pole vault world that is one of the biggest insults.  nh stands for no height.

It wasn't long before he was up for 14-0 and once again cleared on his first jump.  We were ecstatic.  Last year 14-0 was 7th and 8th at the state meet.  Not this year.  This would turn out to be an historic year as there were still 13 vaulters in at this point.

We had a little break so I took a walk over to see what was happening with my old team.  You have to watch where you walk on the state meet infield.  The athletes look so graceful when they run.  The infield reminds one of the effort they exert.  There are piles of vomit in a number of places.  After a short walk through the "mine field" I got over to the track to see Gahanna Columbus Academy finish first and fourth in the 300 hurdles.  That should be enough to put them in the lead, I thought to myself.  Then they went 1-2 in the 800.  Another state championship had to be sewn up for them.  I yelled that at some more of their runners and they smiled. 

Back at the pole vault pit, Zak Kruer showed he was not perfect when he missed his first vault at 14-6.  I shook my head and muttered that maybe this was the beginning of the end.  Zak likes to prove me wrong and he did so again by easily clearning 14-6 on his second jump.  Maybe that would get us a place, I wondered.  It turned out that there were still 10 people in the competition as we headed to 15-0.  Unbelievable!

The best vaulter in the state and one of the best in the nation was starting to warm up.  He had not taken a vault yet and he wouldn't until the bar got to 15-8.  He would go on to make 17-2 that day, a new Ohio all-time best.  He cleared it by quite a bit.  It will be fun to watch him progress at the University of Tennessee.  It was also fascinating to talk to his head coach.  Ed Rarey has been coaching at Gahanna Lincoln for 60 years.  He had already been coaching for nearly twenty years when he watched me run for Delaware Hayes back in the early 70's.

Suddenly I hear the people erupt in applause in the stands.  I look down at the track to see two girls limping together at the end of the 3200.  One of the girls is really exhausted and it appears the other girl is helping her finish.  What amazing sportsmanship.

Zak Kruer lines up for his first jump at 15-0.  He has been looking good at this height in practice.  He has had some fairly close vaults at this in some meets recently.  Still, his best has remained 14-6 which he cleared once last year and a couple times this year.  It sure would be great to get a new personal best at the state meet.

Next thing I realize is that I am jumping up and down and waving my arms in the air.  Kruer has just cleanly gone over 15-0.  Yeah!  That has to be a place on the podium.  It turned out that eight vaulters would clear this height.  This would be the best high school pole vault meet in the history of Ohio.  What an honor to be in this competition.  We have to wait to see where his final place would be.

Meanwhile, Columbus Academy is receiving their state championship trophy.  I am still pretty cranked about our vaulter clearing 15-0 so I bravely yell to everyone in sight "I was there in 1977!"  "I was a coach 35 years ago when we won the first one."  Everyone seems to get it now and I am not getting any more strange looks.  We had dreams of having some good vaults at 15-4 but not today.  Zak's first jump at that height was his best.  As the other vaulters went to higher heights we finally learned that Kruer finished 5th.  We were ecstatic.  A 5th place medal is amazing.  It is not as shiny as the second place medals by Larry Jessee in 1970 (2nd) and Dwayne Gard in 1991 (2nd) but he did something neither one of them did in the state meet and that was to clear 15-0.

I think back to what the announcer said at the awards ceremony for the boys Division III team awards.  "It is a great day for the Vikings.  The second place team uses Vikings for a mascot and so does the winning team."  I smiled to myself and agreed, yes it was a great day for the Vikings.

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