Orchard Park sophomore pole vaulter Kegan Mancabelli finds some of his most joyful moments when he’s more than a dozen feet in the air.
“It’s just so much fun. Pole vault pretty much drives my happiness,” Mancabelli said.
If the height of the bar was any indication, he had a ball on Saturday.
Mancabelli’s personal-best leap of 14 feet, 3 inches won him the pole vault at Section VI Indoor Track and Field State Qualifiers at Houghton College. As a top-two finisher, he qualified for states in two weeks.
After winning the sectional title, Mancabelli embraced his father and longtime coach, Chuck Mancabelli.
“I’m very happy for him because he’s been pole vaulting since fourth grade,” Chuck said. “I don’t think there is anyone who has put as much time as he has into getting where he is.”
Saturday was generations in the making for the Mancabelli family and its rich pole vault lineage.
Chuck, whose father was a coach and official of the event, would practice in the family’s backyard pit growing up. And with his grandfather holding an administrator role at Arkansas State, Chuck would train there under the likes of renowned coach Guy Kochel and Olympian Earl Bell.
Kegan – along with his brother Tino, a senior decathlete at Orchard Park – has kept pole vaulting in the family.
“It was a natural progression to see if (Kegan) had any desire to do it,” Chuck said. “And he took to it right off the bat.”
When Kegan was in fourth grade, Chuck started Mac Track and Pole Vault Club to develop young athletes like his sons. The club has grown to around 20 athletes, said Chuck, who is on Hamburg’s track and field staff.
It’s sent Kegan to new heights.
“He’s meant everything,” Kegan said of his father’s coaching. “He’s been with me the whole way, training with me. Everywhere I go he’s there helping me improve.”
Kegan said he was ready to best his 14-foot, 3-inch jump on Saturday until shoulder discomfort set in. He called it a day, hoping to save the additional height, measured in his happiness, for his first state meet.
Kegan also placed third in the long jump (21 feet, 3 1/4 inches) while Tino took eighth in the 55-meter hurdles. egan and Tino, who is committed to compete in the decathlon for Albany, are also on Orchard Park’s boys basketball team.
Other boys results included Rayven Sample of the combined Falconer/Cassadaga Valley/Frewsburg/Maple Grove/Randolph team winning the 300 (35.80 seconds). Sample, a senior at Cassadaga Valley, was also on the first-place 4x400 relay team (3:29.89).
Sample said he won’t compete in the 300 at states to place his focus on the relay. While Sample and 4x400 teammates Josh Walters (Randolph), Ronan McDonald (Randolph) and Riley Auer (Maple Grove) only practice together once a week due to their different schools, he said it’s a non-factor in their training.
“Each of us has a lot of skill individually, so we don’t need to be together to push each other,” Sample said. “We all know what needs to get done and how hard we need to work.”
In the throws, Cheektowaga’s Jayden DuBard captured first in both the weight throw (61 feet, 4 1/2 inches) and shot put (56 feet, 9 3/4 inches). It marked the payoff of a personal sacrifice the junior made in preparation for the indoor and outdoor seasons.
DuBard took a hiatus from football this year, instead using the summer and fall to amplify his weight training and technique.
“It was really tough,” DuBard said. “Football has been a part of my life since I was 8 years old. Having to put the pads away for one year was very difficult but I had to do what was best for me.”
Another double winner was Allegany Limestone’s Michael Wolfgang in the 55 hurdles (7.86 seconds) and high jump (6 feet).
Frontier had a pair of individual winners in Josh Peron (1:21.55 in the 600) and Brian Gleason (4:28.15 in the 1,600). Both were on the Falcons’ winning 4x800 relay team (8:13.58), along with Preston Bova and Connor O’Brien.
In the 3,200, East Aurora/Holland’s Brody Jones won with a personal-best time of 9:37.22.
All of the section’s state qualifiers will compete at NYSPHSAA Championships March 7 at Ocean Breeze Track and Field Athletic Complex in Staten Island.