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Work paying off for HHS' Kreutzer

By CONOR NICHOLL

cnicholl@dailynews.net

The Hays High School boys' track and field team has won four straight Class 5A state titles behind distance runner Josh Munsch, hurdler/jumper Adam Deterding and thrower Cade Sharp.

All three won at least one state championship and have gone on to compete at the collegiate level. Munsch, a distance runner, has been all-Big 12 at University of Kansas, while Deterding competes for Kansas State University, Sharp at Fort Hays State University.

This spring, fifth-year coach Ryan Cornelsen sees similar qualities in junior pole vaulter Hayden Kreutzer.

"He is just extremely competitive, and I just really like his mentality," Cornelsen said.  

"He has a mentality very similar to a lot of kids that we have had in track. They just assume they are going to win -- you look at Deterding and Cade, and Munsch."

Kreutzer, the fourth-place finisher in the pole vault with a jump of 14 feet last spring, is among a talented group of Indians looking for their fifth straight state title. The top three vaulters last year, including Kreutzer's good friend, two-time state champion and classification record holder Nick Meyer of Bishop Carroll, have graduated.

Carroll and Gardner-Edgerton have dominated 5A in recent years. In 2009 and 2011, G-E's Issac Mallory and Casey Bowen set the 5A state record, which Meyer broke with a 16-7 mark in 2012. This season, Carroll and the Trailblazers don't have an outstanding vaulter.

Kreutzer leads 5A with a season-best leap of 13-6.25, according to track historian Carol Swenson's honor roll. Maize South's Alex Green is the only other 5A vaulter to clear 13-6.

"In the recent year, they're have been some studs in my class in 5A," Kreutzer said. "I have always looked up to them, and based my competitiveness off of them. Now that they are gone, I am just going to have replace them and step up at the 5A level and definitely score some big points."

HHS posts its track and swimming records above its trophy case just outside of the basketball court. This spring, Kreutzer also wants to put his name on the board and break Marcus Watts' school record of 15-6.25.

"My goal is, all of the seniors who break their records, they leave the school and they put their names up," Kreutzer said. "I want to be the senior who walks around the school and sees his name every day up there on the board."

Kreutzer has become an elite vaulter through his competitive edge, plenty of practice and a growth spurt. Kreutzer pole vaulted some as a seventh grader at Felten Middle School, but called himself "one of the worst."

In eighth grade, Kreutzer improved to the "first or second" vaulter for Felten. He improved by around two and a half feet as a freshman. As a freshman, Kreutzer, also a solid wide receiver for the Indians, weighed 140 pounds, but used a 145-pound pole.

"He is such a coachable kid," HHS pole vaulting coach Rick Keltner said. "If I would tell him to go grab a telephone pole and try to vault with that, he would."

Last year, he used a 175-pound pole and weighed around 160 pounds. Kreutzer, who is expected to be one of the Indians' top football players next fall, has gained about 12 pounds from 2013.

"He is fearless. That's what makes him a good football player. I am really going to miss not being around him his senior year just because he is a competitor," Cornelsen, who will leave to take the head football coaching position at Hutchinson, said. "There are times, when it doesn't matter who he is going against in the pole vault, he always thinks he is going to beat them no matter how high they've went."

Keltner, also the head boys' basketball coach, said Kreutzer has started a bit slowly, mainly because of weather and Keltner starting late after a Final Four run in basketball. Plus, with Kreutzer's added size, he has had trouble getting on the right pole.

Kreutzer has used a 14-foot pole, but Keltner believes Kreutzer will eventually work his way up to a 15-foot pole. Keltner said Kreutzer has "got a shot" to win a state title.

"Pole vaulting is so much about getting on the right stick," Keltner said.

After last season, Kreutzer decided to vault all year round, except for football season. He attended some camps in summer and winter, including the Air Force competition Feb. 10, one of the biggest indoor high school meets. He finished sixth out of 25 vaulters with a 13-6 mark.

The offseason work has yielded a strong start -- and possible state title next month.

"Not having to just change it completely and be like, 'Wow, this is weird again' and kind of have to take some baby steps to get back into it," he said. "It's just coming natural now."