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Article Published July 18, 2019
Knapp Reaches New Heights with the Cougars
John Lecardo, Sports Writer

Tyler Knapp had never played a team sport prior to becoming a student at Haddam-Killingworth High School. However, after signing up for H-K’s track teams, Tyler discovered the joys of competing for a squad that has collective goals.

Tyler led the boys’ outdoor track team as a senior captain before graduating from H-K last month. His specialty was the pole vault, although Tyler also competed in the long jump and the 4x100 relay. Tyler was drawn to track and field by his father Dave, who did the pole vault in high school and college. Tyler joined the outdoor team as a freshman and then became a member of the indoor squad in his sophomore year. Unfortunately, he suffered a back injury during his sophomore outdoor track season.

This fall, Tyler decided to traverse the trails as a member of the boys’ cross country squad and helped the Cougars win a Shoreline Conference title. He went on to contribute to conference crowns with the indoor and outdoor track teams during the winter and spring, respectively. In the recent spring season, Tyler took third place in the pole vault at the Class M State Championship to qualify for the State Open for the first time in his career.

“It’s all about trying your best. There are people in practice who might skip reps or drills, but you have to give it your all and do them,” says Tyler. “You also have to trust your coaches and know they are there for a reason. As a freshman, I would sometimes skip reps with the pole. It wasn’t until the end of my junior year where I started to work as hard as I could. It doesn’t come naturally, and it’s about putting in the work and getting better.”

Tyler’s extra effort in practice paved his path to prominence in the pole vault this year. When competing in the vault, Tyler makes sure that he’s mentally grounded before he propels himself up into the air.

“A lot of pole vault is about the form, so I just kept doing ground drills with the pole vault, which helped,” Tyler says. “When it comes to being on the track during the event in a meet, you have to clear your head because, at that point, it comes down to muscle memory.”

Tyler says that it was an honor to lead H-K as one of the team’s senior captains. The most challenging part for Tyler was finding the balance between being a leader and a friend to his teammates.

“It was hard being a captain,” says Tyler. “I was close with a lot of the kids on our team, so it can be hard for your friends to see you as being in charge and demanding respect as captains.”

Cross country and outdoor track Head Coach Matt Diglio feels proud that Tyler’s progression in the pole vault yielded an outstanding senior season. Diglio was also pleased to see Tyler succeed in other events while serving as a quality captain for the Cougars.

“Tyler has been the top pole vaulter on our team for several years. He worked hard and continued to improve each year,” Diglio says. “Tyler had a tremendous senior year. During the season, he also anchored our 4x100 relay and long jumped to help contribute valuable team points. Tyler was a captain and did a terrific job as a role model and leader of our pole vault group.”

While his tenure at H-K featured some ups and downs, Tyler learned a lot about himself, especially after enduring the back injury. As a result, Tyler became a better athlete and a more well-rounded young adult during the home stretch of his high school career.

“H-K was really great. I regret not doing [cross country] sooner, because the kids are so close, and the energy is fantastic,” says Tyler. “Track also made me humble. Before the back injury, I was cocky as a freshman. I had early success and let it get to my head. I leveled out after the injury, but the team supported me, and the sport made me a better person.”