KHS senior’s continued improvement sees him qualify for state in pole vault
Boring isn’t enticing to Kase Simon.
That’s why the pole vault – something he’d never before tried – was right up his alley.
“I knew it was my last year and I wanted to try something new and exciting,” said Simon, a senior at Kingfisher High School.
So with the help of Shiloh Kannady, Simon took on the event in his final track season.
And it paid off. Simon last Saturday took fifth in the Class 4A regional track and field meet held at Plainview High School.
Although his placing didn’t automatically qualify him, his personal-best jump of 9 feet eventually proved good enough to earn him a spot at this weekend’s state meet.
“It felt great to know I beat my old personal record, but I was a little bummed out because I didn’t think it would be a height that would qualify me for state,” Simon said. “When I found out I qualified for state I was jumping all around because I was so happy.”
Simon will join the rest of his KHS teammates Saturday as they compete in the 4A state meet at Catoosa High School.
According to his coaches, it’s a well-deserved honor. “Vaulting is extremely difficult to learn and highly technical,” KHS track coach Kerri Lafferty said. “Shiloh has spent countless hours with Kase and Dani (Rios-Ramirez) on the different phases of the event. Kase seemed to pick up the process fairly quickly. Each meet he improved on his height. It’s always gratifying to see a kid’s success when they put in the work.”
It took work.
Early in the season, Simon was clearing 6 feet as he tried to grasp all the nuances of the jumps.
“At the beginning I would definitely say I struggled a little bit,” he said.
Kannady, a former KHS standout and track coach who still helps with the track teams, said that’s common.
“It’s extremely difficult to learn to pole vault. It’s a very technical sport and requires so much physically and mentally,” she said.
“Not anyone can just go pole vault. Not understanding the vault can get you hurt.
“Most people would never throw themselves 10-plus feet in the air and just let themselves fall to the ground.”
But Simon isn’t most people, so he kept working.
He cleared just 6 feet at the Piedmont meet on April 1 and then didn’t make the minimum height at Kingfisher’s meet nine days later.
“I don’t think it was until the Elk City track meet when I thought I was somewhat getting the hang of it,” Simon said.
It was in Elk City at the Western Conference meet on April 19 that Simon soared over the bar that was at 7 feet, 6 inches.
He added another foot to his PR on April 24 at Watonga.
At the regional, Simon cleared 9-0 and just missed on 9-6.
“It’s just amazing what Kase has been able to accomplish in such a short time,” Lafferty said.
Kannady said she took a lot of pride in watching him continually improve.
“I am so proud of Kase for working hard everyday and trusting in me to help him learn,” she said.
Simon said his improvement was due in part to the work Kannady put in with him.
“Without her, I wouldn’t even be half as decent as I am,” Simon said. “I am very thankful for her and her dedication to our team. It means a lot to not only me, but my teammates as well.”
Although Simon mostly competes by himself, the team concept isn’t lost on him.
“Kase is such a huge part of our boys program with his vaults, but he is always there supporting everyone of the runners and being part of a hype team for our boys relays,” Kannady said.
That’s a point of pride for Simon.
“Yes, I do take pride in it,” he said. “I am always wanting to see my friends do great in their events because I know they would want the same for me.”
The chances of Simon medaling at state are slim. Nearly a dozen of the competitors in the field have jumped higher than 10 feet and four of them have PRs of 12 feet or higher.
For Simon, though, it’s not necessarily about earning a spot on the medal stand.
“My goal for this weekend is honestly just to compete and set another personal record,” he said. “There are some pretty impressive pole vaulters at state and I’m just honored I get to be there.”