Raising the bar to a state championship

Will Johnson

JEFFERSON CITY — Opening the first day of the 92nd Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA) State Track and Field Championships Friday morning in Jefferson City, the Owensville Dutchmen pole-vaulting duo of senior Bryan Candrl and junior Jacob Luther both got OHS’ first shot at extending a streak of individual state championships that began back in 2015 with Devon Dowler winning a state title in the Class 3 Boys 300-meter hurdles.

Not having made 14 feet in over a year, Candrl was eager for another shot at that mark during the Class 3 Boys Pole Vault kicking off day one of the state meet in field events.

“I haven’t had a PR (personal record) in the pole vault for over a year,” Bryan said.

Making every height on his first attempt from 12 feet even to up until 14 feet, nine inches, he found himself in good shape.

“He was dialed in right from the beginning,” Coach Matt Candrl said. “Even a day or so before, I could tell he was in the zone to give his best at state.”

Clearing 14-9 on his second of three attempts, Candrl saw Father Tolton Catholic Trail Blazer sophomore Jake Freidel miss on all three attempts at that height before he celebrated OHS’ fourth individual state champion in track and field in as many years.

“It feels pretty good,” Candrl said. “I was a little shocked that he (Freidel) missed 14-9 because he’s a super good vaulter,” Bryan said. “I knew he was going to give me a run for my money.”

Bryan was not the only Dutchmen on the medal stand in the pole vault, Luther cleared 14 feet, three inches to place third in the event.

“It’s pretty crazy to have two people from the same team place that high at state,” Candrl said.”

For Luther, the road to a third-place finish in the Class 3 Boys Pole Vault was not always easy.

Clearing 12-0, 12-6 and 13-0 on his first attempt, the Dutchmen junior found himself with his back against the wall at 13-3.

Missing his first two attempts, Jacob cleared 13-3 on his third try to stay alive and ultimately clinch his spot on the medal stand.

“Jacob found himself with his back against the wall after missing 13-3 on his first two attempts,” Coach Matt Candrl said. “He bounced right back giving him the opportunity to clear more bars and achieve his PR (personal record) at the state meet.

Coming into the state meet, Luther and Candrl shared the OHS school record in the boys pole vault each clearing 14 feet even.

“It’s been awesome having the competition,” Luther said. “If I was going to fall behind someone, I’m glad it was Bryan (Candrl) and Jake (Freidel) who is a fantastic jumper.”

For brief periods of time, both athletes shared a new school record at 14-03 before Luther bowed out at 14-6 and Candrl cleared it.

“It was exciting sharing the school record for a few moments at state,” Luther said. “Hopefully I can push myself next year during my senior season.”

Before the event even took place, Mother Nature had other ideas imposing a three-hour delay on the entire track meet forcing athletes to re-group however they could.

“It was crazy,” Luther said. “We kind of just relaxed, re-warmed up and just gave it all we had.”

Bryan was relieved they delayed the start of the event due to rain.

“I’m glad they called it off before we started jumping so that we didn’t get in the flow of things and get shut down,” Bryan said. “It wasn’t that bad. We had a good plan , stuck to it and it ended up working in the end.

Even without one of their late classmates, a state-track condition continued.

Losing Sam Blackwell to injuries suffered in an ATV accident last week, OHS track team members carried out the tradition for their fallen teammate.

“Every year he was at state track and cross country, Sam started a tradition of smacking a bear in front of a building by Arris’ Pizza,” Bryan said.

Luther and Candrl were not the only Four Rivers Conference (FRC) pole vaulters to earn All-State accolades.

Pacific junior Gavin McDonald cleared 13-6 to place eighth in the Class 4 Boys Pole Vault also held at the Dennis and Roberta Licklider Track Complex in Jefferson City.

Candrl’s state meet was not over after the pole vault.

Competing Saturday in the Class 3 Boys Javelin, Bryan’s best throw of 134-02 in the prelims earned him 12th place in the state and seven feet shy of the finals.