It might be a bit of a stretch to say KC Lightfoot and Kyle Rogers have a love-hate relationship. Frenemies may be more like it.
Lightfoot, a Lee’s Summit junior, and Rogers, a Liberty senior, have been two of the top pole vaulters in the state this spring. When they’ve been in the same meet, as was the case Friday in the Gary Parker Invitational at Blue Springs, they’re usually the last two vaulters standing.
An intense rivalry? Sure. But these two also genuinely like each other.
“We’re great friends,” Lightfoot said. “We work as a team, kind of. But enemies.”
Lightfoot had the upper hand Friday, as he has most of this season. He has the top vault in Missouri, and he cleared 17 feet after a shaky start for another gold medal. And Rogers, after he bowed out at 16-0 for second place, urged his nemesis on as he tried to soar even higher.
“Me and KC are good friends,” Rogers said. “We have fun together. It’s good to have someone that’s as good as you and we push each other. You always want to win, but it doesn’t always end up your way.”
Lightfoot and Rogers have been one and two in Missouri since last spring’s Class 5 state meet, when Rogers placed second and Lightfoot was tied for third behind record-setting Park Hill senior Christopher Nilsen.
Lightfoot has had the top mark in the state since clearing 17-1 ¼ last month in the Darwin Rold Invitational at Lee’s Summit North. Rogers placed second that day with a 16-3 leap. Lightfoot went 17-0 to win the Kansas Relays, followed by Rogers at 16-6, and upped his state-best mark to 17-3 ¼ April 24 in the Lee’s Summit Quad.
But Lightfoot didn’t look so formidable on a chilly and windy night at Blue Springs. He showed up 30 minutes late, which only gave him time for a couple of run-throughs. A headwind had him struggling with his approach and searching for the right pole.
He started at 15 feet, earlier than he normally does, and badly missed his first two attempts.
“It was really getting to me,” Lightfoot said. “I didn’t know what pole to start on. Coming in I didn’t know what to do, so I lowered my opening and tried to find poles that would work.”
Lightfoot found the right pole, and he soon found his groove. He easily cleared 15-6 on his first attempt, as did Rogers and Will Drury of Kirkwood. Drury bowed out at 16-0 while Lightfoot and Rogers sailed over the bar on their first attempts.
Lightfoot also needed only one jump to clear 16-6, but Rogers couldn’t match him. He didn’t go over the bar on his first try; he caught with his arm on the second and knocked it going up on his final attempt.
“I blew through the pole I was on and I should have moved up a pole on that jump,” Rogers said of his final attempt. “I just brought so much energy that the pole just didn’t handle it.”
Rogers was still around when Lightfoot went over 17-0 in one try, and he offered encouragement as Lightfoot missed three stabs at 17-6. It’s always been that way when they compete, or when the work out together, which they often do.
“We push each other quite a bit,” Rogers said. “It’s always fun jumping with someone who is as good as you if not better. You train harder because you want to get to that next level.”
Two more for Kelby
In the past, shot put had always taken a back seat to the discus for Lee’s Summit West’s Makayla Kelby. Kelby is certainly no slouch at the shot – she’s the defending Class 5 state champion in that event as well as the discus – but now she wants to be among the elite in both.
Kelby took a step in that direction Friday when she won the girls shot put with a toss of 46 feet 2 ½ inches. Besides being a personal best, it also broke the meet record and gave her the best mark in the state this season and 25th best nationally. But that still leaves her 10 notches below her national ranking in the discus.
“I’m trying to level it out,” Kelby said. I want to be good a shot and good at discus both at the same level. I’d really liked to be ranked top in the country in both of them, so I’m working to bring my shot up a little bit.”
Putting more time in on the shot has meant putting less time in on discus for Kelby, who said she hasn’t been as comfortable recently with her signature event. But she was still good enough to win with a 143-6 throw Friday, and the 158-9 she recorded in California last month is the best by a Missouri girl this season and the 15th-best mark nationally.
“I haven’t practiced as much so I can’t expect too much of myself,” Kelby said. “But at the same time, I know I can do a lot better than I have been doing.”
Kelby was part of another dominant performance by West’s girls, who won the team title going away with 155 points. The Titans won the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 relays, with the all-freshman 3,200 team of Addie Mathis, Madison Hulsey, Mckenna Butler and Audrey Parson winning in a meet-record time of 9:33.22 that’s also the second-best in the state. Hulsey also won the 3,200 in 11:19.08.
Erin Sermons and Kyra Atkins finished first and second in the 200, while Jessica Haney and Maxine Nwachukwu led a one-two finish in the high jump. Jana Shawver won the 400 in 57.90 seconds, nipping Park Hill’s Taiya Shelby in an exciting finish.
The West boys 800 relay team of Colin Payne, Christopher Wilcox, Caleb Furnell and Vonzell Kelley took first in 1:30.0.
Moreno hurdles along
A bruised heel kept Lee’s Summit’s Christian Moreno out of the hurdle races last year. This year he is making up for lost time.
Moreno, a senior, held off Lee’s Summit West’s Vonzell Kelley and Park Hill’s Grant Downes to win the 300-meter hurdles. Moreno, who will attend the U.S. Naval Academy next fall, won the race in 39.89 seconds, with Kelley a close second at 39.96.
I just stayed calm and collected,” Moreno said. “They were passing me on the turn but I trusted in my steps and technique to get me through the end of the race.”
That was just part of a busy day for Moreno. He ran a leg on the Tigers’ 3,200 relay, which placed sixth and set a personal record. He ended it by joining Evan Sanders, Kyle Heeney and Layne Breneman to place third in the 1,600 relay.
Lee’s Summit’s 400 relay team of Ronell Jones, Micah Manning, Nathaniel Jones and Delshaun Presley took second, as did Presley in the long jump and Joshua Hutcherson in the 110 hurdles.
Bronco boys second
Lee’s Summit North’s boys placed second to team champion Blue Springs with 79.5 points. The Broncos’ 1,600 relay team of Myles Madge, Cameron Hairston, Damond Anderson and Todd Pinkowski won in 3:23.44, and Devon Richardson placed first in the high jump with a meet record 6-8 leap.