PHILLIPSBURG — A typical day at a track meet is different for Smith Center junior Kaden Meitler and most other competitors.
As one of the top pole vaulters in the state, his afternoon at Friday’s Phillipsburg Invitational is fairly relaxing. While the majority of the 19-man field begins warming up, he rescinds to a green lawn chair, talking it up with teammates and coach Brock Hutchinson.
One by one, the field begins to dwindle. Meitler continues his pre-meet relaxation before getting loose as his time to compete nears. By the time the bar is raised to 12 feet — his starting height — only three other competitors remain. Deep in their minds, they surely know who is reaching the highest and taking home yet another gold to Smith Center.
He clears 12 feet no problem. Two others clear the bar, but only Meitler stands after 12-6. He clears 13-6 with plenty of room to spare before coming short in his attempt at a new meet record of 14-4.
Meitler — a fourth-place and third-place finisher at state in 2A — is already reaching new heights in 2016. Meitler tied for third with a vault of 13-0 at state last year, short of the 14-6 mark set by his older brother, L.T. Meitler. Earlier this season, he cleared 14-1 to set a new personal record.
“You kinda get a rush of excitement,” Meitler said. “Every once in awhile when I make a height like that, I’ll grunt and go ‘Yeah’ and stuff when I fall down. It’s just excitement that happens.”
L.T. was a four-time qualifier at state, a mark Kaden is well on his way to. That’s not his only goal for his final two years for the Redman.
“My ultimate goal is to win the entire thing,” Meitler said. “I kinda set height goals. First, I wanna try to get our school record, which L.T. holds. That’s the first goal. My goal coming into the season was to get 14-6 as a PR. Looking at that, I think I can break that pretty easily. State record would be the next goal after that.”
L.T. set the school’s record last season with a vault of 14-7. As Kaden hopes to do before his career is over, L.T. nearly edged out a new state record at Cessna Stadium last May, tapping the bar at 15-1 three times. The current 2A record is 15-0, a mark dating back to 1981.
The Redmen seemed destined to not have the firepower to compete for the top of the podium at state after graduating the likes of L.T., Nick Lehmkuhl and Landon Wingerson. Meitler has been surprised at his squad’s progression thus far, though.
“Starting off, I wasn’t too sure how we were gonna do,” Meitler said. “From the first meet to now, we’ve cut down a lot of our times in races and stuff. I’m actually get more and more excited as we go through the season because we’re breaking our own personal records and getting better as we go. I’m looking forward to the rest of the season now.”
Meitler is not only a vaulter. He served as the third leg for the Redmen’s 4x800 and 4x400, the race that sealed the program a boys’ team championship last season. He also finished sixth in the 300 hurdles and has dropped the 4x800 to add the 110 hurdles to his repertoire this season. As his coach puts it, ‘he can do it all.’
“I hate to compare them, but I’d say it’s pretty even,” Hutchinson said. “They’re two totally different kids, though. L.T. was kind of more of a smaller, stockier-type athlete. Kaden’s just a big, strong athlete, more like a decathlete. He can do it all, and he does most of it really well.”
Meitler does it all even off the track. While he trains in Jamestown throughout the year, he also is a state qualifier in wrestling and an all-area running back for the Redmen. He is following his footsteps of his older brother, who still remains a staple in his life.
“He encourages me a lot and says ‘Good job’ and everything,” Meitler said. “He’s always been there for me. Last season, when we vaulted together and everything we were always there for each other.”
But maintaining contact on the phone is enough for Meitler, who has his sights on shattering his marks.
“He beat me about every single meet,” Meitler said. “It’s kinda good to get him gone so I can win a couple meets.”
Norton sprinters dominate
The Beloit Trojans mustered up enough results to edge the Norton Bluejays by one point in the team standings, but the boys’ sprinters did their part to make a run at the team title.
Tevin Brown, Tevin Petrie and Gavin Lively went 1-2-3 in the 100-meter dash with Brown finishing in 11.36 seconds to take home gold. Petrie revenge in the 200, mustering up a win by .02 seconds over Brown with Lively coming in third yet again.
With help from Jace Ruder, the quad improved on their area-best time in the 4x100, running a 44.73 to claim first. Ruder set season-best marks in the 110 and 300 hurdles on his way to gold.
Thomas More Prep-Marian claimed four of the top five spots in the 3,200, led by a first-place finish by Andrew Hess (11:03.01).
Koby McEwen of Norton tied the area’s best high jump with a winning mark of 6-2 while the Bluejays went 1-2 in shot put and won the triple jump crown, as well.
Monarch girls claim second
The TMP-Marian girls rode a strong performance from distance runner Melissa Pfeifer to claim second at Friday’s Phillipsburg Invitational. Pfeifer claimed individual golds in the 800 and 1,600. She also served as the starting leg in the 4x800, which took home the top spot by 10 seconds over Beloit.
After finishing fifth in prelims, Kendra Werth edged out a victory in the 100-meter hurdles by .07 seconds.
Russell’s Alaina Gfeller earned golds in the long jump, 400 and 4x400, coming in second in only the triple jump.
Smith Center claimed the top four spots in the shot put and top three in the discus with Mikayla Dietz placing in the top two in both events.