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Phil Anastasia: Seneca's quadruple threat gears for state championships

The remarkable thing about Drew Kanz isn't that he's a 7-foot high jumper who can cover 45 feet in the triple jump.

The remarkable thing about Drew Kanz isn't that he's a 7-foot high jumper who can cover 45 feet in the triple jump.

Or that he's a 22-foot long jumper who runs the high hurdles in 14.5 seconds.

It's that he does those four events so well that he's one of the favorites in each of them at this weekend's Group 3 state championships at South Plainfield High School.

"Guys who have been around track a long time are amazed," Seneca coach Bill Fisher said. "He's doing those four events every weekend at a high, high level, and he's doing them consistently."

Kanz is kind of amazed, too, in a casual kind of way. He's a laid-back guy who doesn't seem caught up in the excitement over his sensational senior season.

But he's starting to sense the significance of his performances over the last few weekends. Not long ago, Kanz was planning to attend Burlington County College. Now he's likely to attend a major college, since recruiters have been ringing Fisher's phone off the hook and asking about the tall, thin athlete who has taken the South Jersey track scene by storm.

"The entire [Atlantic Coast Conference] called right after he went 7 feet [in the high jump]," Fisher said. "Rutgers really likes him. UConn, too. They can see what kind of athlete he is."

Kanz's versatility isn't unprecedented, but there's a short list of athletes who have been able to compete at such a high level at such varied events.

The long jump and triple jump are closely related. But the high jump is a unique challenge, demanding speed, burst, and refined technique. And the high hurdles calls for speed, expert timing, and another set of technical skills.

"My favorite used to be the high jump," Kanz said yesterday, during a break in a workout behind Seneca's football field. "But now I have such a huge passion for the high hurdles. It's like I'm addicted to hurdling.

"The jumps are great. But it's such a thrill to compete in the hurdles, to get in the blocks at the starting line with those other guys."

Kanz said he's especially excited about the hurdles this weekend. He won the event at the South Jersey Group 3 championships in a time of 14.59 seconds, but he's just the No. 4 seed at the state meet behind Irvington's Joshua Evans (14.36) and Rahway's Pierre Darisme (14.37) and Chris Whyte (14.51).

"I can't wait to run against those 14.3 guys," Kanz said.

Kanz is the top seed in the high jump after winning the event in 6 feet, 10 inches at the sectionals. That mark verified his performance at the Burlington County Open, where he set a meet record with a high jump of 7 feet, 1 inch.

"That proved that I wasn't a fluke," Kanz said of his mark at the sectionals. "I kind of verified myself as a 7-foot high jumper."

Kanz is the No. 2 seed in the long jump. He went 22-21/4 at the sectional meet, finishing second to Timber Creek's Montez Blair (22-51/2). And he's the No. 3 seed in the triple jump after placing third at the sectionals with a leap of 44-83/4, right behind Blair and his teammate, Eric Smith.

"He's grown into his body, strength-wise," Fisher said, referring to Kanz's rapid improvement as a senior. "He's just kind of bloomed."

Kanz, who lives in Shamong, is 6-4, 180 pounds. He used to play basketball at Seneca, but went out for indoor track this past winter to better prepare for the spring season.

He'll compete in the triple jump this afternoon, then scramble to make his mark in the high hurdles, high jump, and long jump tomorrow afternoon. But he prefers it that way.

"I like it when it's a little hectic and I have to run back and forth to the different events," Kanz said.

Racing between the long-jump runway, the high-jump area, and the high-hurdles starting line, that's another event for Drew Kanz. He's great at that, too.