A person was missing on Chase Pennewell’s special day.
The Monroe City senior pole vaulter and two-time state champion signed his national letter of intent to compete for the University of Kansas in last November. Pennewell’s pole vaulting coach, Dennis Hancock, wasn’t there. He died from cancer two months earlier at the age of 58.
As Pennewell celebrated his signing with family, friends and others at Monroe City, he missed Hancock.”He never got to know where I went, which is hard,” Pennewell said. “Going through all that is hard, but he would want nothing more than for me to go to a place like (Kansas).
“In the days after Hancock’s death, Pennewell went to the one place he knew he’d find solace — the outdoors.Pennewell is an avid outdoorsman. If he isn’t at school or at track practice, he’s either out in the woods hunting or on a fishing boat. He even works a part-time job at the Indian Creek Marina on Mark Twain Lake. He works with track teammate Noah McAfee, where their primary tasks are to rent boats, work on the docks and tow any boats that break down.
In the woods, he hunts any kind of game, but deer and turkey seasons are his favorite. His biggest kill was a 17-point buck he shot one season.
He and his father are even planning a hunting trip this fall to either Idaho or Colorado.”I just get into it,” Pennewell said. “I spent a lot of hours in the woods, and I just love it. I grew up in it, and it’s something me and my family have always enjoyed.
“It also allows him to unwind and forget about the stress in his life. It allowed him to grieve for his coach.”That really helped,” Pennewell said. “It was right before deer season. It was a really hard time, and I used that as my time to get away.
“Hancock was a well-known pole vault coach and was a regular as the Panthers’ track meets as a volunteer. His son, Brian, holds the pole vault record at Monroe City at 16 feet, 4 inches, and he went on to vault at the University of Missouri, where he holds the indoor and outdoor records, too.
Hancock also served on the Monroe City R-1 School Board for more than 14 years. His death was felt throughout the community.
“It impacted everybody’s lives,” McAfee said, “but it definitely hit the pole vaulters really hard. “So Pennewell dedicated his senior season to him. “He was my greatest motivator,” he said. “He still is.”
As a sophomore, Pennewell claimed his first Class 2 pole vault state championship with a height of 14-6. In his junior year, he defended that championship with a height of 15-6.
He spent countless hours in the weight room and made sure he was eating healthy to get his body in top condition.
“If you look at the pictures of him as a freshman, it doesn’t even look the same,” Monroe City track coach David Kirby said. “He’s worked his tail end off, and he’s really committed himself to improve his athletics and his body. “He also was an all-district selection in football, and he has a 4.0 grade point average. His work ethic is reflected across the Monroe City track team, which took second place in the team standings of the Class 2 state meet last season. The 4×400 and 4×800 relay teams in McAfee, Cody Porter, Jonathan Shuck and Trey Gander won state titles. Shuck also won a state championship in the 800 run.
“We had different goals, but we all have the goal to a state championship as a team,” McAfee said. “Seeing him put in all the work for what he wanted, that made everyone else strive for how much work they need to put in.”
Pennewell wants to break the Monroe City pole vault record (his personal best is 16-0), win a third straight state title and help Monroe City win the Class 2 team state championship this season. Striving for all three of those goals, along with dedicating the season to Hancock, has pushed him more.
His coaches and teammates see that drive. In some ways, everyone in the Monroe City program believes Hancock sees it, too.”Chase is a young man of faith, and Dennis was a man of faith,” Kirby said. “There’s some eyes looking down on him and seeing everything that he’s doing.”