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De Pere duo soaring to new heights

By Rich Palzewic
Sports Editor

DE PERE – De Pere High School track and field athletes Olivia Fabry and Grace Kowalkowski are a formidable one-two punch for the Redbirds.

The dynamic duo, who are both three-time WIAA state qualifiers in the pole vault, are hoping now that the weather has warmed and conditions are more favorable, that will translate into higher heights in their vaulting.

“The weather does affect your ability to pole vault a lot,” said Fabry, who is a four-time indoor pole vault state champ and the defending WIAA Division 1 outdoor champ. “The wind affects how fast you can run down the runway, the wet affects your grip on the pole and the cold doesn’t allow the pole to bend as much. It hasn’t been the best year for pole vaulting.”

Kowalkowski recently won three events at the DeMerit Invite at Bay Port High School.

“Hopefully by the state meet, I can get back to my personal record of 12-3 or maybe 12-6,” said Kowalkowski, who also runs the 100-meter hurdles and long jumps. “I usually do better with the pressure of the state meet.”

Fabry, whose personal record is 13-1, is a University of Notre Dame commit and has the top jump in the state this season at 12 feet.

Kowalkowski is a University of Minnesota commit and has jumped 11-9 this year, which puts her in the top three state-wide

During her last three trips to state, Kowalkowski has finished third, third and second, respectively.

“Olivia definitely pushes me to do better, not only at the meets but at practice, too,” Kowalkowski said. “She motivates me to put forth more effort.”

Like Kowalkowski, Fabry, who won state last year with a jump of 12-6, likes having her teammate there to push her to new heights.

“It’s nice because everyone else who finished on the podium last year at state, has graduated besides Grace and me,” Fabry said. “I know that she is the best with me, so it’s nice to have her at every practice and meet. If I’m having a rough practice and I see Grace doing well, I know I have to get it moving. We’ve been super close at every meet this year.”

Before winning her state title last season in La Crosse, Fabry finished fourth in 2017 and ninth in 2016.

“The goal is to finish one-two at state,” Fabry said. “That would help us team-wise a lot. I’m really excited because I think we can get a team of athletes to state, not just a few field event kids.”

In the May 20 WIAA Division 1 Green Bay Preble Regional, Kowalkowski won the pole vault with a jump of 11-6, while Fabry jumped 11 feet to finish second.

Kowalkowski also advanced to sectionals in the 100 hurdles with a third-place finish.

The sectional meet will be held May 23 at Schneider Stadium on the campus of St. Norbert College.

The top three placings at sectionals will advance to the state meet in La Crosse May 31-June 1.

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