Century pole vault coach Dave Neral overheard a phone conversation between a pole vaulter from another high school and his mother at a track meet a few years ago. The vaulter told his mother not to expect much because "that Century kid" was there.
That "kid" was Century's Nick Neral, Dave's son and a two-time Times Indoor Track Athlete of the Year who won consecutive Class 2A pole vault state titles in 2014 and 2015, and an outdoor vault title in 2015.
The Knights have garnered the most pole vaulting success at the state level since Neral won his first state title in 2014. Just six pole vaulters in Maryland history have won four consecutive state titles, and never has it been accomplished five or more times.
"We're proud of what we built," Dave Neral said. "Sometimes we ask kids to use poles that are much bigger or smaller than what they need. They make themselves better with the equipment we have. We have some pretty competitive kids, they've pulled it out. I've learned a lot from some of the other coaches around here that were coaching before I did so we're pretty proud."
Added senior Kyle Bryant: "We call it the dynasty."
Once Neral saw his son develop an interest in pole vaulting, he helped him get involved even more by going to VaultworX in Camp Hill, Pa, a indoor facility that allows athletes to train. The Knights' pole vault crew started carpooling two to three times a week to practice.
"[Nick] had some really good success," Neral said. "It's a commitment to go to VaultworX to train for an hour and a half and drive and hour and a half back. You really have to be committed to pole vaulting."
Chandler Kennell, another former Knights vaulter, captured a gold medal at the outdoor state meet in 2014. Neral took second, and both vaulters cleared 15 feet.
Bryant was just a freshman at the time but he's certainly accumulated similar success at the state level.
Bryant is seeking his fourth consecutive pole vault state championship when he competes at Morgan State University this weekend. Bryant won indoor and outdoor pole vault state titles as a junior in 2016 and won a second consecutive indoor crown when he cleared 14-4 — a personal record.
"I feel like it's been a real positive reinforcement to have Nick and Seth [Jacobs] before me to help and guide me," Bryant said. "They went through it and they know exactly what I need to do to be successful and they've been really helpful with VaultworX, it's very pivotal.
"Coach Neral is probably the most important thing to my success because the way he coaches me, he's so analytical with it. He coaches me to be able to see my jump and fix what I need to fix. After Nick graduated, Coach Neral didn't have to come back here to coach the next two years so I'm really thankful for that."
Bryant won a Class 2A West title last Thursday (13-9) after taking second at the county meet. Century took first ay both events, and are state title contenders again this year.
To this day, no high school has won as many pole vault state championships — it's a testament to the hard work and dedication Century has devoted time to over the years to accomplish such a feat.
Neral, in his 10th season with the Knights, has always taught his vaulters to have a positive disposition. That way, the younger, incoming athletes will see that and embody it when they practice and compete.
"Having all these state titles exemplifies the scope of the Century pole vault program over the past few years thanks to Coach Neral helping out with that," Bryant said. "The most important thing he's done is keep us humble about it, really building our character up.
"Like he said with the Century kids at the meet, I think when you're that much better, it says something about you when you're trying to help make everyone else better to get to that level rather than drag them down."