Girls Track: Oak Park-River Forest’s McKenzee Kroeschell goes the distance in vault
When junior McKenzee Kroeschell needs guidance in the pole vault, the Oak Park-River Forest student and her father, Bill, jump in the car for a road trip.
Kroeschell’s personal coach, Doug Lytle, is based in Overland Park, Kan. Kroeschell and her father have traveled at least three times to the Kansas City area this season to see Lytle. Kroeschell’s last trip was just a few weeks ago.
Her dedication is paying off. Kroeschell won the Class 3A Lyons Sectional May 10 and will be one of the favorites in the state meet Friday and Saturday in Charleston.
Kroeschell’s winning vault of 11 feet, 9 inches ranks tied for third among state qualifiers. Based on sectional performances, only Lake Forest’s Carolina Carmichael (12-3) and Oswego’s Riley Vann (12-0) rank ahead of Kroeschell, who exceeded her previous personal record of 11-6 from Glenbard West’s Pariseau Invitational April 21.
Kroeschell will make her second consecutive appearance at the state meet after vaulting the minimum 9-feet last year.
Her win at the sectional came on a new, bigger pole which the school received earlier in the week. Kroeschell’s new pole measures 13-6 and carries a maximum weight of 135 pounds.
To concentrate on the pole vault, Kroeschell has made some sacrifices.
“I love it so much. It’s like my life,” Kroeschell said. “I love it so much, I quit the violin and harp to do this. I juggled both, but I wasn’t good at any of them. I quit violin at first, and then the harp.”
Kroeschell training with Lytle has worked in her rapid development in the sport. Lytle finished fifth in the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles and won a combined four NCAA national championships for indoor and outdoor in the 1980s while competing for Kansas State University.
He created the Xtreme Athletics training center for pole vaulters. Because of Lytle, Kroeschell and her father are willing to make the near 10-hour trip to the Kansas City area. Many times, the Kroeschells stay with family friends in the area.
“At spring break, I was a 9-6, but I was up to 11 feet in three days,” Kroeschell said. “I didn’t know what to do (before).”
Kroeschell discovered Lytle’s facility during a summer camp a few years ago, and is willing to return regularly for Lytle’s guidance.
“I’m really excited (about state). I didn’t think I would make a difference before, but this year I am so excited,” Kroeschell said.
The only previous OPRF girls vaulter to medal at state was Rachel Teitelbaum, who placed fourth in the Class AA in 2007.
The biggest surprise for OPRF at the sectional was freshman Hannah Gorin’s win in the 3,200-meter run (11:46.87). It was Gorin’s first major appearance at a varsity meet after competing in only one dual meet during the season. She didn’t even compete in the varsity West Suburban Silver meet this season while staying with the freshman-sophomore team.
She set a meet record for frosh-soph at Hinsdale Central’s Devilette Invitational April 14.
“I felt really proud of myself after that run,” Gorin said. “That gave me a lot of confidence.”
In a duplicate of the cross country season, Gorin was not called up to the varsity for that sport until the postseason. Her score actually counted as OPRF’s fifth runner (29th place) at the Class 3A Fenwick Regional at Schiller Woods. The Huskies did not advance as a team into the state meet.
“I didn’t think at the beginning of the season that I would be here,” Gorin said. “I improved a lot this season. I had no idea where I would be.”
The Huskies (121 points) were the sectional runner-up to Lyons (206), which won its first sectional title since 2002.
OPRF won two other sectional events with Chaundia Jones (200, 26.05) and Amari Wilkerson (300 hurdles, 47.50). Wilkerson also advanced after finishing second in the 100 hurdles (16.70).
The 400 relay advanced as a sectional runner-up (49.75) with Jones, Nicole Loud, Komiya Martin and Takira Owens. Brianna Wheat placed second in the 400 (1:01.08). The same combination also advanced in the 800 relay (1:45.08). Erin Svehla (5-3) finished third in the high jump, but equalled the state qualifying mark.