As Hillsboro High School pole vaulter Tyler Proffitt staggers his leg and eyes the bar standing 12 feet, 6 inches high, he simultaneously increases his focus and blocks out unnecessary thoughts about technique.
All season he has worked on combining a jump with placing the pole in the pit, then rowing out to clear the bar, and then contorting his body to allow himself to keep the bar upright while he falls to the mat.
He does not think about those things.
“The vaulter’s worst enemy is definitely your own mind,” Proffitt said.
Proffitt uses the same technique he employed to pile up yards as a running back for the Trojan football team. As he prepares for the jump, he visualizes himself clearing the bar. He had wriggled his torso over the 12-6 bar in practice earlier this week. He knows how the jump should feel. He analyzes the feel of that moment. He wants to recreate it.
By the time, Proffitt began his sprint on his second jump at 12-6, he had already finished the vault a hundred times in his head. He sees the bar sitting firmly in its notches as his eyes descend to the plastic mat.
It made clearing the mark in competition a little easier, it was a personal best for profit. He placed second in the competition to Chris Medlin of Hesston. Neither jumper could clear the next bar but it took Proffitt two attempts to clear 12-6.
A truth about track but especially pole vault is that athletes want to see each other succeed. They know a championship-level pole vault is one of the most difficult things in all of sports.
“If they jump higher, I feel like I’ll jump higher,” Proffitt said.
In between jumps for Proffitt, Hesston pole vault coach Vanessa Schroeder gave Proffitt input about finishing his jump.
“In pole vault, there are so many different things that go into it,” Proffitt said. “It helps me to have more than one person giving advice.”
Proffitt said he is peaking at the right time with a week before regionals. He is hoping to match to the two top vaulters in the state, both from Garden Plain, and Marion’s vaulters Colten Johnson and Zach Hammond.
It was a good day in the pole vault for Hillsboro. Jon Carey also set a personal best with a leap of 9-6 to finish fifth.
Ashley Bartel and Dallas Jost finished second and third respectively in girls pole vault. Both jumpers cleared 7-6.
On the other side of the track arena in Lindsborg, Hillsboro senior thrower Aaron Slater was already observing an opponent to try to get better.
Both Slater and teammate Josh Siebert made the shot put final. Slater finished fourth with a throw of 42-9 and Siebert placed sixth 41-5.5.
Slater has won shot put multiple times this season, most impressively at Hesston on May 10 with a personal best throw of 43-10.
On this day, Slater wanted to analyze the thrower to win the event in the Central Kansas League. Zach Loesch of Lyons heaved a toss of 56-10, 10 feet longer than the next closest opponent. Hillsboro throws coach Len Coreyea said he is the best thrower in the state for 3A.
“You see the mental preparation; this is what good guys are doing,” Coreyea said. “He’s watching real close. Even as a senior, he still has a week. Sometimes that’s what makes you better.”
Slater said he has improved immensely this season. He attributed it to working on the glide in his throw and making sure the ball takes a high arching flight before crashing to the sand. Coreyea said Slater has always had the strength to be a state competitor in the shot put. His consistency has improved in his senior season because he has improved his feet and hip rotation.
What Slater has always had is more difficult to measure — composure.
“He’s had bad days and doesn’t throw temper tantrums,” Coreyea said. “He’s a gentleman. He congratulated Loesch. He’s been a good ambassador for us.”
Slater’s even temperament and positive nature has helped other Trojan throwers. He is quick with advice for younger teammates. He has set the example for them to follow.
“He never does anything ever to embarrass us,” Coreyea said. “He’s an ‘A’ student.”
Siebert’s throw of 41-5 in the shot put was a personal best.
It paid off on Thursday. Nick Ediger placed fourth in the javelin with a throw of 137-6.
Kiara Espada placed in all three throws: third in the javelin, 92-8; fourth in shot put, 32-09; and fifth in the discus, 96-3.
Taylor Vogt placed fifth in the shot put with a throw of 32-3.
Coreyea said Slater is just one good throw away from achieving the season goal of a mark of 45 in the shot put.
“You’ve only got two or three good throws in you per day anyway,” Coreyea said. “Track is just one good pop.”
800-meter run: 3. Callie Serene, 2 minutes, 27.04 seconds.
1600: 2. Emily Sechrist, 5:28.
3200: 1. Emily Sechrist, 11:37.40
High jump: 5. Heather Mayfield, 4-6.
Team: 3. 81 points.
100: 1. Mitchell Day, 11.93.
200: 5. Shaq Thiessen, 24.56.
800: 4. Bret Mueller, 2:08.29; 5. Josh Richert, 2:08.72.
1600: 5. Richert, 4:58.65.
4x100: 5. Day, Cody Craney, Jesse Brown, Thiessen, 45.77.
4x400: 5. Bret Mueller, Thiessen, Richert, Avery Franz, 3:35.52.
4x800: 2. Richert, Grant Knoll, Franz, Mueller, 8:48.04.
High jump: 2. Brown, 5-10.
Long jump: 1. Thiessen, 21-10; 3. Day, 20-2.
Triple jump: 3. Franz, 41-5.