As if a broken school record wasn’t enough, a Class 2 state title is why Lathrop pole vaulter Drew O’Connor is the All-News-Press NOW boys track athlete of the year.
O’Connor, a junior, rode the momentum of his school record vault of 15 feet, 4 inches at sectionals all the way to the state meet. While he didn’t match his record-breaking performance, he still managed a vault of 14-9.
“Honestly, I had no idea I would ever be able to accomplish that,” O’Connor said. “I just kind of do my own thing, and all the stuff that comes with it is an extra award. None of that ever ran through my mind. It was never a goal. Now that it’s been accomplished, it makes being a state champion feel that much better.”
O’Connor has known winning his entire junior year. O’Connor was apart of the Mules’ football championship push that saw the team make it all the way to the Class 2 state title game. The Lathrop boys track team also won the Class 2 sectional meet on their home turf. While every other team had packed up and left, O’Connor was still chasing greatness.
While he had already locked up first place in the pole vault event, O’Connor wanted the school record. With his family, teammates and all of the Lathrop event workers still watching, O’Connor cleared 15-4 and was met with a roar of delight from the Lathrop faithful.
Lathrop coach Scott Haahr has been at Lathrop for 20 years. When it comes to O’Connor, Haahr says not only is he one of the best athletes he’s coached, but also one of the most pleasant.
“(O’Connor) is definitely the best pole vaulter I’ve had come through Lathrop since I’ve been here,” Haahr said. “The nice thing about Drew is he’s just the nicest, humblest kid, too.”
Even after his record year, O’Connor has improved even more in the off season as he says he’s gone up four more poles over 15-4.
“Next year’s going to be a lot higher,” O’Connor said. “My goal at the start of the season was initially 16-4.5, which would be the Missouri state record in Class 2, but now I think I’m going to veer off and set it around 17-3 just because of how fast things are moving. I think I can reasonably put it higher and be confident.”
— Derek Zimmerman-Guyer