Record breaker / North vaulter is Boys Track Athlete of the Year

For Brigham Kleinhenz, the gamble didn’t pay off.

The Columbus North senior and his pole vault coach, Dale Stelting, thought the way Kleinhenz vaulted the week leading up to the state meet, he might be able to clear 16 feet. So instead of entering the competition at 13-0, they decided to wait until 14-0 to save his legs for later in the event.

Unfortunately for Kleinhenz, he didn’t get past 14-0. He missed his three allotted tries at that height, but his body of work throughout the season that included sectional and regional titles earned him The Republic Boys Track Athlete of the Year honor.

“I still think we made some good, solid decisions,” Stelting said. “We just didn’t make it work. It happens in our sport, and Brigham is one of the best athletes I’ve ever worked with, and he’s definitely the best pole vaulter Columbus North has ever had on the boys side.”

Kleinhenz proved that on April 21. He cleared 14-9 at Brown County’s Talon Relays to break Chris Clauson’s school-record of 14-8.

The 15-foot barrier seemed destined to fall, but it didn’t happen.

“At the time, I didn’t think that would stay the school record for awhile,” Kleinhenz said. “I thought I would break it, no doubt. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, but definitely, that day was very memorable to finally get my name up on the wall.”

Kleinhenz was a three-sport athlete at North and earned this year’s overall Male Athlete of the Year award at The Republic Sports Gala on June 6. He earned Clas 6A All-State honors in football and was a state qualifier in wrestling and track.

As was the case in wrestling, Kleinhenz didn’t pick up pole vaulting until his freshman year. He went 10-6 that year, then improved to 12-6 and qualified for regional as a sophomore.

Last year, Kleinhenz went 14-0 at beginning of the season and again at the state meet. But this year, he didn’t have a chance to start that fast since the Bull Dogs’ first three meets were canceled.

“At the beginning of the year, we had four or five meets canceled because of weather, which kind of stunk a little bit, but everyone has a few meets get canceled, so it wasn’t that big of a deal,” Kleinhenz said.

Kleinhenz plans to attend IUPUC for a semester or two, then go on a two-year mission. When he returns, he will consider whether to resume his football or pole vaulting career, possibly as a walk-on at Purdue.

Stelting said coaching seniors, he’s found sometimes problematic over the years because of all the emotional things they’re going through. North’s graduation was the morning of the state meet, and Kleinhenz had to come back that afternoon to vault in nearly 90-degree heat at Indiana University.

“I think it affected his legs on the runway a little bit,” Stelting said. “I just think we left a lot on the table, and a lot of that was, it was a crazy year weather-wise. It was a crazy year trying to predict what kind of wind we were going to have and what poles to get on, and it didn’t wind up helping his confidence on the runway. It was a tough year to be one of the best vaulters in school history.”

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The Republic All-Area Boys Track team:

Brigham Kleinhenz, Columbus North: The senior won sectional and regional titles and was a state qualifier in the pole vault.

Damon Hunter Jr., Columbus North: The senior finished 15th in the 100 and 18th in the 200 at state.

Logan Abbott, Columbus North: The senior finished 15th at state in the discus.

Drew Thompson, Columbus North: The senior finished 23rd at state in the 800.

Sam Horak, Columbus North: The junior finished 24th at state in the 1,600.

Preston Terrell, Columbus North: The freshman was a state qualifier in the high jump.

Wyatt Wyman, Brown County: The senior finished 16th in the 800 and ran on the sixth-place 4×800 and 22nd-place 4×400 relay teams at state.

Jackson McPheeters, Brown County: The junior finished 26th in the 800 and ran on the sixth-place 4×800 and 22nd-place 4×400 relay teams at state.

Isaiah Keefauver, Brown County: The senior ran on the sixth-place 4×800 and 22nd-place 4×400 relay teams at state.

Marino Dolph, Brown County: The junior ran on the 4×800 relay team that finished sixth at state.

Dale Phelps, Brown County: The junior ran on the 4×400 relay team that finished 22nd at state.

Zarrien Johnson-Bey, Columbus East: The senior tied for 28th at state in the high jump.

Honorable mention

Columbus East: Crase Bergman, Zach Clark, Luke Poindexter. Columbus North: Charlie Allen, Zach Friend, Hunter Huser, Noah Kestler, Ben Malone, John Sluys, Hunter Spalding. Jennings County: Blaich Blanton, Dalton Craig, Isaiah Ertel, Carter Leak, Franklin Sanders, A.J. Siener. South Decatur: Trent Nobbe. Trinity Lutheran: AJ Goecker, Tyler Goecker.