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Prep Track Insider: North's Grill relishes vaulting

Kaneland senior Ashley Castellanos is part of a deep Knights team that will look to break through at today's Girls Kane County Meet at Geneva.
Kaneland senior Ashley Castellanos is part of a deep Knights team that will look to break through at today's Girls Kane County Meet at Geneva.

Whoever typecast pole vaulters as wild thrill-seekers sort of hit the mark with St. Charles North junior Jessica Grill.

She's got to have some devil-may-care in her to launch herself in the air, but before any of that, Grill seemed just as content to sit down.

"A friend of mine who lives in Ohio [pole vaults], and we have a similar body type, and he said it was super fun," Grill said. "And I thought, 'Well, I don't really want to do any other track event, so it just seemed like the most fun.' "

That was before her freshman year, when Grill and twin brother JT were best known as up-and-coming golfers and regulars at junior events at Pottwatomie Golf Course. JT Grill since has followed his sibling into the pole vault pit after seeing the way she enjoyed competing.

Asked whether there was any overlap between her sports, Jessica Grill giggled, "No, not at all. Maybe endurance."

Perhaps that's why she's felt so fulfilled in extending her personal record from 7 feet as a freshman to 10-9 – and counting, she hopes – this season.

"It was definitely bumpy because a lot of pole vaulters were gymnasts in the past, and I was never a gymnast because I was never good at any of that," Grill said.

She's more adept at trying new things. She's happy about where that has taken her.

Now that's breathing room
Host Kaneland captured Saturday's Peterson Prep Invitational boys title by 87.33 points over runner-up DeKalb.

That's a stark – and welcome – contrast to the Knights' three most recent margins of victory at Peterson: 0.5, nine and 14 points.

"We were really kind of surprised on Saturday," Kaneland coach Eric Baron said. "We thought me might have had a good shot at winning the meet, but we did a lot better than we were expecting."

Credit an abundance of scorers behind usual suspects such as sprinter Brandon Cottier, thrower Nate Dyer and hurdler Dylan Nauert.

Baron called junior Dalvell Triplett's second-place effort in the triple jump a "pleasant surprise." Triplett, in his first season competing in the event, cleared 42-6.25. The Class 2A state qualifying standard is 43-8.

Replacing Davison
The Geneva girls lost standout sophomore triple jumper Hannah Davison to a season-ending foot injury during practice last week.

Freshman McKenna Happold has been a capable understudy to Davison – a Northwestern soccer recruit – having already cleared 32 feet in a triple jump field that also includes Vikings freshman Colleen Grady.

"That's probably more of a technical event and a strength event. It takes some time to get the hang of it and have some leg strength being built," Geneva coach Peter Raak said. "We've been fortunate to have some younger girls start strong and develop that."


Ben Barnes
Kaneland, So.
What he did:
Barnes cleared 21-1 3/4 to win the long jump at Saturday's Peterson Prep meet, edging senior teammate Tanner Andrews. "Ben's a good long jumper, but that's a big win, to win at Peterson," Knights coach Eric Baron said. "That was a really nice boost for us early on."

Rosary's 4x800 relay
What the Royals did:
Competing Wednesday at Benet, Rosary's quartet of Emily Bakala, Amelia Anderson, Courtney Cox and Kara Kalisz set a meet record by finishing in 9:43.7.

Batavia's boys and girls will retain possession of the trophy after winning Wednesday's "The Duel" meet against Geneva. The custom-made hardware, which was added to spice up the midweek competition, features a Bulldog on one side and a Viking on the other. "It's a pretty neat thing," Batavia boys coach Dennis Piron said.

Which girls athletes and teams reign supreme at tonight's Kane County Meet at Geneva. St. Charles East will be looking to supplant defending champion West Aurora after finishing as runners-up last spring. The county meet signals the beginning of the stretch run, as conference and state series meets loom.

Tough as Sly might look, he's still been known to wince at the sight – and sometimes the thought – of a significant injury.

File the recent hardship of Geneva's Hannah Davison into that category.

Davison was looking to return to the state meet as a triple jumper and perhaps other events as the season reached its final month. Now she'll be left wondering.

Injuries create chances for other athletes to step up, but it's always better when the best assemble in Charleston.

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