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Prep track: Dudley reaches 15-0 at Hamline Elite Meet

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ST. PAUL — The bar has been set higher for Worthington pole vaulter Will Dudley.

Way higher.

The Trojan senior not only won the Hamline University Elite Meet with his vault of 15-0 Friday night, he shattered his previous career-best of 14-1 — which was also a school record — by nearly an entire foot. So far this season, his highest mark was 13-6 prior to Friday’s big win.

“I definitely wanted to hit 14-6,” Dudley said. “My goal for the day was setting a new PR. Once I hit 14-6 I would have been content with that but I kept going and 14-9 and 15-0 just kind of happened.”

The win at Hamline University’s Klas Stadium, the site of the Minnesota State Track and Field Meet, is no ordinary victory. Only the top 10-15 athletes in each event, regardless of class, are invited to the Elite Meet. It was the first time Dudley had participated in it, though he previously reached the podium at that particular venue when he took fourth place at the Class AA state meet in 2013 with a vault of 14-0.

Dudley said going up against such tough competition did make a difference in how he performed Friday; though even he couldn’t have predicted he would have beaten his previous mark by such a wide margin.

“At a lot of the meets in Worthington, I’ll have won by my first jump,” he said. “Tonight we had an opening height of 12-6 and, seeing some of the other guys go, you just know that you have to bring your ‘A’ game to compete.”

Worthington co-head coach Doug Brands said preparation has plenty to do with it as well.

“Day-in and day-out at most of our meets he comes in after everybody else is already out,” Brands said. “For him to get into a meet like this is so big just for his mental preparation. Otherwise you have to wait until sections but now that he’s gone out and competed in a big, tough meet, he’s got that experience and we’ll be able to relax.”

Dudley plans to keep working in the tougher meets to reach the ultimate goal; capping his high school career with a state title. He will compete in the Dakota Relays in Sioux Falls next weekend where he will again go up against some top-notch competition.

But, even though he has already cleared 15-0, in his mind there’s still nowhere to go but up.

“You can always bring out a bigger pole and you can always go higher,” Dudley said. “There’s still a lot of season left so I’m going to just keep working and hopefully I keep improving.”