Where some play football, basketball, baseball or soccer, junior Rory and his sophomore sister Reilly got their start in gymnastics as small children. More recently, gymnastics morphed into diving for the Wildcats' swim team. Diving eventually paved the way to one of track and field's most unique events — the pole vault.
Both Rory and Reilly, along with their freshman sister Regan, will pole vault for the Wildcats track team this spring. Rory placed eighth at districts and missed out on state in his first year pole vaulting a year ago, but did manage to set the school record. Reilly qualified for districts, but did not participate because of a prior commitment.
Rory set the Archbishop Murphy school record of 12-feet, 6-inches when he was a sophomore. He has his sights set of building on that record this season and trying to qualify for state. Reilly has similar goals. Regan is in her first year of competitive pole vaulting, but is on her way to picking up the sport like her older siblings.
Thursday night during a track meet involving Archbishop Murphy, Sultan and South Whidbey, Rory won the boys with a vault of 12 feet; Reilly won the girls with 9 feet, 3 inches (a personal record); and Regan took second in the girls with 8 feet (a personal record surpassing her old mark by two feet.)
Rory and Reilly said the path to pole vaulting likely started with the ballet they were exposed to as small children. Then they became aspiring gymnasts and quickly fell in love with gymnastics despite the significant time commitment demanded by the sport.
"It's by far the hardest sport I think I've ever done," Rory said. "There is so much more practice that needs to go into it than other sports. We practiced like 20 hours a week. There is so much to do and cover in gymnastics."
If anything, it kept them both in very good shape. Of the four hours spent at practice each day, Reilly said two of those hours were dedicated to conditioning.
Rory and Reilly left gymnastics more than three years ago at around the same time, but craved the acrobatics to which they had grown accustomed.
That craving led both to diving.
"I've heard of people that did gymnastics that went into diving that succeeded very well," Rory said. "I quit gymnastics my eighth-grade year and I missed it. I missed doing flips. I enjoyed being at the gym so diving seemed like a good way to kind of get back to that."
There were adjustments taking up a new sport, but largely their gymnastics background helped them succeed as divers. Before long, both succeeded at the state-level.
Rory didn't qualify for state as a freshman, but got ninth at the 2A state championships as a sophomore and seventh as a junior. Reilly has placed fifth in back-to-back seasons.
Reilly discovered pole vaulting before her freshman year of high school and recruited her brother to take lessons with her. Again, their gymnastics background proved beneficial.
"Some of the movements are the same," Reilly said. "Our pole vault coach used to be a gymnast as well. He describes a lot of it in gymnastics terms so it's easier for us to understand."
Archbishop Murphy track and field coach Paul Turner said he isn't looking for district or state championships from the Kruegers. He just wants to see both improve from where they were a year ago — something he said the pair are more than capable of doing.
"I'd love for Rory to make state and improve on his school record and I'm sure he could do that," Turner said. "It's going to require one to really be committed to it, which they all are. They're great kids."
The opporunity is always there for a girl to make a big jump from year to year in the pole vault because not as many girls compete in the event, Turner said.
"So much of the pole vault is having a good day on the right day," Turner said. "A lot of the times, especially with the girls, a lot of them (get eliminated) at the same height. Then what they do is they add up their misses, so if they've had clean jumps and they got the height on the first jumps, they could be anywhere from eighth place up to third place."
That could be good for Reilly, who doesn't like to miss.
"I get nervous if I have to make it over (the bar) on my third one so I always try to make it over on my first or second," Reilly said.
Competing in the same event has proved beneficial for Rory and Reilly because they can support each other and give advice when the other is struggling.
"It's nice to hear from a different person besides just the coach," Reilly said. "My brother can come tell me what I'm doing wrong or he can tell me it was a good vault. It really helps to have a sibling in the sport."
Rory said he's tried more traditional sports, but his niche is in the sports that require the elements and skills of gymnastics.
"I played soccer in sixth and seventh grade, but I'm not good at it," he said. "I played football. I'm horrible at football. I think pole vaulters kind of have a unique skill set. That's kind of all I'm stuck with."
Rory's and Reilly's success in diving and pole vaulting directly correlates with their start as gymnasts, Turner believes.
"Those things go hand in hand," Turner said. "Even a snowboarder that does tricks, it's kind of the same mechanics. Gymnastics and diving, all of those (sports) where you have to turn your body in the air is a huge part of it. You need strength, but you also need that acrobatic ability."
The Kruegers may compete in sports that most would consider off the beaten path, but all that really matters to them is that they've found something they both enjoy.
"My friends just think that I'm kind of weird that I do these sports," Reilly said. "They're kind of random, but they've kind of realized that I'm in love with my sports and that's what I do."
Aaron Lommers covers prep sports for The Herald. Follow him on Twitter at @aaronlommers and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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