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.”
Results of note
Papay Glaywulu of Park Hill won the boys triple jump with a leap of 48 feet, 4 ½ inches. The Trojans’ Grant Downes won the boys 110-meter hurdles in 14.97 seconds and placed third in the 300 hurdles.
Liberty North sprinter Jon Redmond placed first in the boys 100-meter dash with a time of 10.81 seconds and won the 400 in 49.77 seconds. Ava Curry placed first for the Eagles in the girls javelin with a 127-9 toss.
Jasmine Crawford of Park Hill South won the girls 800 meters in 2:19.69. The Panthers’ 3,200 boys relay team of Jacob Prososki, Brendan Briody, Eli Guzman and Christian Ludtke won in 8:09.20.
Osayi Omorodion of North Kansas City was also a double winner. Omorodion won the 100 hurdles in 15.51 seconds and the long jump with a 17-6 leap.