McKenzee Kroeschell travels to the Kansas City, Mo., area once or twice a month, so it would make sense that the Oak Park-River Forest senior would decide to attend college near there.
Kroeschell is already the best girls pole vaulter in school history and is looking to take an even bigger step this spring with nothing less than a Class 3A state championship. She finished third (12-feet-3) in the pole vault at state last season.
Kroeschell signed with Wichita State March 14 and plans on studying industrial engineering. The Wheat Shockers have only one other Chicago area native on their roster, sophomore sprinter Shanice Andrews from West Aurora.
“There was such a community feeling,” said Kroeschell, who picked Wichita State over Illinois. “They remembered me and they all knew my name. They sat with me at a banquet. I liked that (part of the) country and I really wanted to be on that team.”
She also will be close to her personal coach, J.J. Lawler, who works out of Xtreme Athletics in Overland Park, Kan. His methods have helped Kroeschell realize heights that she could never imagine when she started off as a freshman clearing 6 feet.
Kroeschell now attends camps in Wisconsin and participated in the Reno (Nev.) Pole Vault Convention in the offseason. She competed in Rolling Meadows’ Pole Vault Summit earlier this month.
Kroeschell enjoys the rush of pole vaulting. Her goal each meet is a simple one.
“I have to go higher,” she said.
Kroeschell won the West Suburban Silver meet Friday night at York by tying her indoor career-best 11-6. She attempted to break the meet record of 12-0 set by Hinsdale Central’s Cassie Ludwig in 2007, but her new pole didn’t cooperate.
Kroeschell employed three poles, with the last one going 13-6 and containing carbon fibers, which are lighter than fiberglass.
OPRF pole vaulting coach Tim Gamble said the school will need to order a 14-foot pole for Kroeschell.
“The ability for her to move through the next pole is determined by technique and power at any given time,” Gamble said. “She is also able to vault higher with adrenaline … the power she has at the peak (of the vault).”