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CLASS 2A BOYS STATE TRACK

Watch now: Mount Zion pole vaulter Kyle Hensley medals at 2A boys state track meet

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CHARLESTON — Mount Zion pole vaulter Kyle Hensley had a secret weapon as he competed in the Class 2A State Track and Field meet in Charleston on Friday. 

Hensley was sporting socks with pink donuts on them — the favorite snack of Homer Simpson — and he had them on when he captured the sectional pole vault title last week. 

"I wore them at sectionals and I try to wear them as much as I can," Hensley said. "I thought a sectional championship was in my range but for it to actually happen, I was a little surprised."

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Mount Zion's Kyle Hensley competes in the pole vault on Friday during 2A Boys State Track and Field in Charleston on the campus of Eastern Illinois University. Visit www.herald-review.com to see more photos and videos from the event.

Hensley continued his strong jumping, tying his personal best with a jump of 4.53 meters (14.86 feet) at state to finish with a fifth-place medal.

"I didn't start out too well but I still jumped pretty well. I think I did pretty good. I pretty much tied my PR and I'm pretty happy with that," Hensley said. "Especially with how hot it was and it was getting windy. The wind made it harder to run in with the longer poles because it was pushing my pole as I was trying to run. It got a little tough some times."

Extreme heat and humidity forced the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) to delay the running portion of Friday's meet into the afternoon. Originally scheduled to begin at 2 p.m., temperatures were 95 degrees at O'Brien Field at Eastern Illinois University and the running events were moved to a start time of 5 p.m. Go to herald-review.com/sports for coverage of area athletes in the track events.

The field events — discus, shot put, long jump, triple jump, high jump and pole vault — proceeded as scheduled at 10 a.m. and Hensley did his best to keep things light with his competitors in challenging conditions. After clearing his final jump, he turned to the other jumpers and politely asked them all to miss the rest of their jumps. 

"I like to have fun and if I talk and joke around with the competitors it sort of takes the nerves off of me a lot. It makes me more comfortable and everyone else laughs. I enjoy it," he said. 

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Reid McNeil, Sr., Mount Zion, during pole vault on Friday during 2A Boys State Track and Field in Charleston on the campus of Eastern Illinois University. Visit www.herald-review.com to see more photos and videos from the event.

Joining Hensley in competition was his Braves teammate Ryan McNeil, who finished 12th with a cleared jump of 4.10 meters (13.45 feet). 

"We definitely push each other and Reid motivates me a lot. He helps me get on bigger poles and he has me watch his plant and take off so we can help each other out," Hensley said. 

McNeil, a senior who will compete in pole vault and football at Augustana College next season, has seen firsthand the dedication Hensley has put into the sport. 

"It's a little annoying that (Kyle) is jumping up so high but I understand why because he put a lot of work in. He has been going straight through COVID," McNeil said. "I'm feeling really good about (competing at Augustana). I'll have poles and equipment and a coach. It is going to be different and I'm hoping to be going up a lot."

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Mount Zion's Kyle Hensley competes in the pole vault on Friday during 2A Boys State Track and Field in Charleston on the campus of Eastern Illinois University. Visit www.herald-review.com to see more photos and videos from the event.

Hensley, a sophomore, jumped at the Pole Vault Junkies Jumps Club in Champaign throughout the pandemic downtime and the results are clear.

"I was surprised by my improvement. I went to a club and started slowly working on my form and as I got back I was able to clear a lot higher than I was before," Hensley said. "Last year, I was jumping at about 12 feet and I never expected in a year that I would be jumping 15. I am happy with how far I've come."

After losing his freshman state track opportunity to COVID cancellation, Hensley is energized to return next year. 

"It really motivates me to push myself even harder. If the competition wasn't as good I don't think I would have done as good and so I am glad there was a lot of competition," he said. "It made me push harder and made me compete better."

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Monticello's Ian Cherry competes in the pole vault on Friday during 2A Boys State Track and Field in Charleston on the campus of Eastern Illinois University. Visit www.herald-review.com to see more photos and videos from the event.

Also competing in the field events were Mattoon's Dakota Spencer in the shot put (16th place) and Clinton's Justin Akeman in the high jump (15th place). Monticello's Ian Cherry finished 15th in the pole vault. 


Contact Matthew Flaten at (217) 421-6968. Follow him on Twitter: @MattFlaten

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