Grandview senior Harvey Kendall’s parents were Division II track and field All-Americans. It was only natural that he try to emulate their athletic intensity.
But Kendall’s inspiration to start a track career — one that now has him ranked among the top high school jumpers and hurdlers in the state heading into Friday’s Kansas Relays — didn’t come from his parents.
It came from, well, Spiderman.
“Nobody would really notice, but I’m one of the biggest nerds in school,” Kendall said. “I’ve been collecting comic books and super-hero artifacts since I was 7.
“And I’ve always wanted to be just like Spiderman. When I’m jumping, I can be like Spiderman.”
He doesn’t hide his affinity.
Kendall wears Spiderman socks while he competes in the high jump, triple jump, 110-meter hurdles and 300 hurdles. He reads a verse of a comic book before each race and then eats a pack of Skittles — which he jokes give him super-hero powers.
The heroic aspect is a stretch, to say the least, but Kendall has certainly been super.
In helping Grandview to its third consecutive Missouri Class 3 state championship, he took home three second-place medals at the state meet last May, capturing silver in the 110 hurdles, the high jump and the triple jump.
His senior season is off to an equally impressive start. Kendall is ranked first in Missouri in the 110 hurdles, second in the high jump and third in the 300 hurdles. He will compete in all three events Friday and Saturday in Lawrence at the Kansas Relays.
He placed in the top-three in two events last year at KU.
“I definitely have a huge target on my back. I thought it was bad last year, but it’s even worse,” Kendall said. “I have to make sure that I stay focused, because there will be people trying to beat me.”
His high school success — which may soon lead to a college scholarship offer, with a host of area Division II schools and a couple of Division I programs showing interest — qualifies as a bit of surprise. Kendall didn’t take up sports until he was 10 and didn’t begin competing in track and field events until two years later.
His father, Harvey Sr., who ran track at St. Augustine’s University in North Carolina, detected his son’s athleticism at an early age, but he said he refrained from nudging him toward sports.
“I didn’t want to push him into it just because we did it. I wanted all my kids to concentrate on academics, going to school and just being a kid,” Harvey Sr. said. “But I always knew he had potential. When he was 4 years old, he was doing back flips and somersaults in the living room. I certainly didn’t teach him any of that.”
Apparently, it’s in the family gene pool. All three Kendall kids compete in track, with Harvey Jr. being the oldest. Their trophy and medal collections take up nearly an entire wall in the house.
One medal, however, is missing — a high school state championship gold medal.
“Oh, I’m very motivated,” Kendall said. “I have this on my to-do list. I do not want to graduate without that medal.”
If he earns one this season, he has a couple of places in mind where he can put it.
“It would probably get its own shelf on the wall if that were to happen,” Kendall said. “Or maybe it can go next to my comic book collection.”