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HHS' Kreutzer sets his goals high

By KLINT SPILLER

kspiller@dailynews.net

Hays High School pole vaulting coach Rick Keltner described sophomore Hayden Kreutzer as fearless.

That's good, because courage is a positive attribute in an event where the competitors launch themselves 15 feet into the air hoping to land on the padded mat at the end of the runway.

Always willing to try the next pole and reach new heights, Kreutzer has skyrocketed among the upper echelon of Class 5A from the beginning of his freshman year to now.

Kreutzer has vaulted 14 feet -- a foot and a half higher than his freshman best -- and is tied with Lenexa-St. James Academy senior Adam Perkins for No. 3 in Class 5A, according to Kansas track and field historian Carol Swenson's statewide performance list.

"Hayden just works hard, and he listens," Keltner said. "He is just so coachable. In pole vaulting, you talk poles whether you are ready for the next pole. Hayden is always ready."

When Hays High travels Friday to Salina Central for its 2 p.m. Class 5A regional meet, Kreutzer will be one of the favorites to make the state meet.

But Kreutzer still will have some serious competition with Great Bend senior Chris Burley, who has gone 14-11, at the regional. Then at state, if they both qualify, Kreutzer will face Wichita-Bishop Carroll senior Nick Meyer, the defending state champion and state record holder who has vaulted 16-8.

Nevertheless, Kreutzer could be the future of the 5A pole vault.

He was the only freshman to qualify for 5A state last season, and of the top six marks so far this year, he is one of two who won't graduate this spring and is the only underclassman.

"The last couple years, I've improved a lot," Kreutzer said.

Kreutzer has placed some pressure upon himself. He wants to place at the state meet -- something no Indian has done in head coach Ryan Cornelsen's four-year tenure at Hays High.

The pole vault and 300-meter hurdles remain the only events no Hays High male athlete has scored in at state during the Indians' three title runs from 2010 to 2012.

"He takes a little pride, him and Coach Keltner both, in getting that going again," Cornelsen said. "They've had good pole vaulters here, we just haven't had them in my era."

Keltner said sometimes vaulters think too much when they moved up in poles, but that isn't the case with Kreutzer.

"Hayden just attacks," Keltner said.

Kreutzer is young, but he has grand expectations.

He said he would like to break the school record of 15-6 set by Marcus Watts, and he also thinks he has a shot of closing in on Meyer's 5A record of 16-7 set at the 2012 state meet before his career is over.

"(Kreutzer) has no fear," Cornelsen said. "As a pole vaulter, you can't be timid. He's always had that where he hasn't had any timidness about him."

So far, Kreutzer has demonstrated he possesses a clutch gene. All of his best vaults have come when it mattered the most.

After barely making the state meet based on a tiebreaker at the regional last season, Kreutzer beat his previous personal best by a foot at the state meet, vaulting 12-6.

This season, he has progressively gotten better, hitting 14-0 on his last two vaults at Salina Central and the Western Athletic Conference championships.

"Mentally, he's a tough kid," Keltner said.

With his two biggest meets coming up, Kreutzer will have an opportunity to reach new heights.