TUSCOLA -- Hunter Kauffman burst up and cleared the bar with relative ease. But it came slightly off center, and amid the cheers he beat himself up a little.
Never mind that was to clear the standard to make state.
A year ago, being a little frustrated to clear 12-6 was unthinkable.
The Tuscola pole vaulting pair of Hunter Kauffman and Josiah Lemay were always OK, but never quite there to win big meets. Lemay's best jump was 11-6 last year; Kauffman's 10-7.
Track kept them in shape, but after a while, a spot at the top of the podium looks more and more appetizing.
So they figured why not -- let's throw it all at pole vaulting this year and see where it takes us. They traveled around the state to pick up advice and trained year-round.
Now, the two are advancing to state after clearing the standard at the Class 1A Tuscola Sectional and carry season highs of 14 feet (Lemay) and 13-6 (Kauffman) to Charleston.
"Yeah, this year we decided we really want to win for once," Kauffman said. "We're tired of sucking, we dedicated ourselves to vaulting, talked to coaches around the area for a better reference or for a better pole that Tuscola didn't have. Just branching out has really helped out a lot this year."
Those PRs have them in the top 8 in Class 1A heading into this week.
Between a variety of coaches and other vaulters, the two found the best connection with 2015 Tuscola grad Austin Rexroad. They traveled down to Cumberland twice a week in the summer to train with Rexroad and really studied the intricacies of what was needed.
"I remember every day that we were down there we would spend two hours at least just vaulting repetitively," Lemay said "Actually a couple times we made our hands bleed."
Muscles were strengthened, sure, but there were other elements beyond that to allow them to clear a higher and higher bar.
"Little things like pointing your toe on your swing leg, it keeps your leg straight so you have to swing it," Kauffman said. "Looking up instead of where you plant the pole."
They also had a friend hang up a rope just to get the feel of the inversions.
And while Lemay said it's been a goal since starting the event sophomore year to attract a scholarship, the work it's taken so far has been much easier having someone else work through the same troubles and problems along the way.
"It's definitely been fun having Hunter on my team because he's one of my best friends," Lemay said He's one of those guys that pushes you to do the best you can, and have a little competitions between us."
Now that can continue to Charleston. They, along with a pair from Pana -- Bryson Thompson and Wes Kile -- will venture down to a spot last year was far off in the distance.
Not only that, but Lemay got a bonus on Thursday, helping secure his future even beyond next week. He was offered a scholarship from Illinois State.
"I was a little nervous at first, but then I cleared it and thought, ah it's not too bad," Lemay said. "All growing up, my parents told me you have to work hard to get what you want.
"And it really brought it true to me that working hard pays off and my parents knew what they were talking about."
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St. T still quick
Even with Jacardia Wright not part of the relay because he's attending a wedding next weekend, St. Teresa still blew by the competition. In stepped John Bryles for the anchor leg.
It was Bryles' first run with the main team. St. Teresa had tried mixing up the order adding new blood, but coach Brian Kenney figured keeping the chemistry between the first three (Jason Duncan, Cayden Brilley and Zach Jarrett) was the best option.
Bryles helped push St. Teresa to a 43.73 time to hold off Pana.
"Earlier, we had some really bad handoffs ... but I felt really comfortable when he handed off there," Bryles said. "Especially because the other (St. Teresa) team was really fast, it just feels good that I came in and stepped up."
It was the middle of a busy day for Duncan, who was scheduled to run two relays, the triple jump and the 100. He went up against last year's second place finisher Kahlil Wassell (New Berlin) in the 100, who just edged out the senior Bulldog. But Duncan still qualified in the 100.
"Anytime I race him, I see if I can try to beat him out," Duncan said. "If I can't, I'll just do it next time."
It's likely the start where Duncan can make up some ground.
"I'd say probably the middle," he said of where he's at his best in the 100."At the end, Kahlil, he really gets his knees up, he really strides it out. I think that's where he beats most other runners."
Standing and waiting
Frustrating - that about summed up the day at Tuscola.
A little before the track events were supposed to start at 6 p.m., lightning was spotted and events were delayed until 7:45. One event was run - the 4x800 relay - before another delay hit.
The storm jumped out of nowhere, turning from light green to red on the radar. The worst of it was just north of Tuscola, while a heavy sprinkle was all that hit the track.
Long race, long wait
That weather delay hit the 3,200 runners hard.
That event came right after the second delay, and it left runners out of sorts.
"Not fun at all," Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond junior Logan Hall said. "I was ready to go at first, and then they called it again so we had to wait another hour. You don't really know what to do for warming up in that situation -- you just have to adapt to it."
Hall won the 3,200 -- he took second last year at state -- and had Shelbyville's Tyler Paslay and St. Teresa's Jackson Stewart close behind. All three beat the standard to advance to state.
"It's good," Hall said of having runners close behind him. "I know I'm going to have a lot of competition at state between two of the top guys, but it's fun not running by yourself for once. I do that quite a lot."