VAULTER VAULTER

Pole vaulter Benson’s comeback lifting him to new heights

KEARNEY — Brandon Benson proved Tuesday he wouldn’t give up the state record in the Class D pole vault easily.

Competing in the Best of the Midwest meet in Sutherland, the Axtell senior cleared 15 feet, 4 inches to break the record set only a couple weeks ago by Twin Loup’s Jed Fenske.

“This is going to be a back-and-forth thing until May 19,” Axtell vault coach Jim Larson said.

Benson set the record of 14-9½ at last year’s state meet. Fenske cleared 14-10½ at the Burwell Invitational April 13, then went 15-3½ at the Central Nebraska Track Championships April 23 in Grand Island.

Meanwhile, Benson sat out the early part of the season recovering from a knee injury.

“Everywhere we go, they question his weight because they look at his upper body. But when you look at his legs — my goodness, six weeks ago he was on crutches,” Larson said.

Since starting his comeback at the Ravenna Invitational April 12, Benson has steadily been getting better. He won three events Monday at the Fort Kearny Conference meet, then went to Sutherland the next day. He will be competing at Elm Creek today.

“Runway-wise, he’s still not up to where he was last year. … But he’s pretty well versed everywhere else,” Larson said.

Benson competed in the meet because he and his coaches decided another meet would help.

He said the jumps “felt really nice. I was on a new pole … and it actually felt really good.”

He came in at 12 feet and made everything until his first try at 14-10, the meet record. He made that height on his third attempt, after two less-than-perfect attempts.

“I wasn’t even landing in the box,” Benson said.

After 14-10, he went to 15-4 “and made it on my first attempt.”

He tried 15-7, “but only had one good vault and that was my last one. I barely knocked it down.”

In addition to setting the record, Benson had the additional pleasure of vaulting in front of his grandparents, former Kearney State College coach Bob Hauver and his wife, who were unable to see him set the record last year at state.

“That was really nice, to let him see it,” Benson said.

One challenge both Benson and Fenske have to overcome is their practice facilities. Fenske travels to Burwell to practice. Benson practices at Hastings, Holdrege, Minden and the University of Nebraska at Kearney’s Cushing Coliseum — “wherever we can find a spot,” Larson said. “But when we got to those other places, we get around some vault gurus, and that helps a lot.”

Benson’s efforts have vaulted him to the top of the Hub Territory track and field leaders charts.

By: BUCK MAHONEY

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Brandon Benson

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