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Tyce Hruza and Chase Berry will be happy to see each other Saturday morning at Omaha Burke Stadium for the Class B boys pole vault at the state track and field meet.

The last two Class B state champions simply welcome the competition the other supplies.

By the end of the event at most meets, “I’m usually jumping by myself, and it’s hard sometimes to get motivated,” said Hruza, the Gothenburg senior and defending state champion who broke the state record with a vault of 16 feet, 7¼ inches at the Dutch Zorn Invitational in Gothenburg on April 9.

“It’s nice to jump off against someone else, it definitely forces you to do better.”

The weather forecast calls for mild temperatures and a slight southeast wind for Saturday morning. The boys will use the raised wooden runway this year at state, which just adds to the excitement for Berry, the Seward senior who won the 2017 state title when he was a sophomore.

Berry competes in street vaults in the summer at Aurora and Seward, and the raised runways are a common sight at those events.

“With the wood runway and warm weather, hopefully Tyce and I can bust some really big jumps and push each other to new heights,” said Berry, who is tied for seventh on the state all-time pole vault charts after clearing 16-1 at the Waverly Invitational April 5.

Poor weather conditions have been an issue for Hruza since his state record mark. He’s gone over 16 feet just once since then — a 16-1 performance at the Cozad Invitational May 3.

“For the most part, the weather’s been awful at our meets,” said Hruza, who went 14-0 at districts. “I’m excited because it sounds like it’s going to be nice Saturday. I’m ready to get out the bigger poles and start flying.”

Hruza said he had a quality second attempt at 17 feet during the Dutch Zorn meet.

“I hit it (the bar) with my chest on my way down,” he said. “I feel like I’m right there (to clear 17 feet).”

Berry has bounced back from two serious injuries and some bouts with illness this season to put himself in position for the second gold medal in his career.

A couple months after winning state in 2017, Berry suffered a life-threatening head injury when he missed the pit and his head hit the runway competing in the Cornhusker State Games.

He was still having episodes of vertigo every time he jumped last season, but still managed to go 15-9 during the season last spring and eventually take fourth at state.

The vertigo has passed, but earlier this season, he was still having issues from a broken right ankle from last summer when his foot caught on the bottom of the pit and turned into the pole box while he was competing in a Junior Olympic meet.

Last week at districts, Berry qualified despite being sick. He went 14-0 to win it.

“I did a short four-step approach and cleared 12-4 on my first attempt to guarantee I qualified (for state) since there were only two other guys left,” Berry said.

“I had a headache, my throat was really sore and I had no sleep the night before,” Berry added. “I’m just glad I survived and got through (to state).”

Starting with the state meet, Hruza and Berry will start seeing a lot more of each other. Hruza, who is also qualified for state in the 400 and 1,600 relays, has signed to compete in track at Doane.

Berry is a Concordia recruit who will continue jumping for his father, Jason Berry, the pole vault coach for both Seward High School and the Bulldogs.

“It’s fun to see two of the best vaulters in state history going to in-state schools,” Coach Berry said. “That rivalry will only make them better.”

Reach the writer at 402-473-7437 or rpowell@journalstar.com. On Twitter @ronpowell_ljs.

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Sports reporter

Ron Powell is a longtime prep writer for the Journal Star. He covers high school football, boys basketball and track as well as state college football and Husker and professional tennis.

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