Kane County Chronicle Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year: St. Charles North’s Nathan McLoughlin

Junior finished season with school record and fourth-place finish at state in pole vault

St. Charles North’s Nathan McLoughlin competes in the pole vault during the IHSA Class 3A Boys State Track and Field Championship meet on Saturday, May 25, 2024, at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston.

ST. CHARLES – On paper, St. Charles North pole vaulter Nathan McLoughlin had quite a successful junior season.

McLoughlin not only finished the season with nine wins in 11 meets and posted a school record, he cleared 4.80 meters (15 feet, 9 inches) to earn fourth place at the Class 3A state championships.

But even with the huge leap in height from his sophomore season to this year, McLoughlin would call the season, fittingly, an upside down one.

“It was shocking to me the amount of poles that I went through during the season. I blew through so many because of my progression through technique and strength-wise,” McLoughlin said. “I know personally I was a little disappointed with how the heights ended up, but I never thought that I would be on such big poles this soon.”

If that wasn’t shocking enough, he wasn’t even fully healthy throughout the entire outdoor season.

“I recently found out that I completely tore a few ligaments in my ankle,” McLoughlin said. “I think it happened after one of the practices after the indoor conference meet. But that was a fun process trying to figure out what made it tick and what calmed it down enough where I could run properly without going backward.”

For his accomplishments in the pole vault throughout the season, McLoughlin was named the 2024 Kane County Chronicle Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year.

Nathan McLoughlin of St. Charles North tries to clear 15’8 in the pole vault portion of the Kane County track and field meet held at Marmion Academy in Aurora on Friday May 3, 2024.

St. Charles North boys track and field coach Kevin Harrington said that while he’s been lucky enough to work with a ton of athletes, McLoughlin is a rare type of athlete.

“It’s something special because those athletes go to a different level. They’re competing in a certain way and they have to prove themselves at every meet,” Harrington said. “Really, it’s a competition with himself. You know, how can he continually get better.”

McLoughlin came into the season with a couple of chips on his shoulder. After not reaching his goal of breaking the school record of 4.65 meters and only clearing the bar once at the state meet for 15th place as a sophomore, he spent the summer training to make sure he didn’t repeat that performance in his junior year.

“I was just working on training and I was upset that I didn’t get more,” McLoughlin said. “I just kept thinking, ‘I can’t screw up again. I need more’ every single meet and it was just a constant drive to not let my team down again.”

McLoughlin found success early in the indoor season. The junior cleared the 15-foot barrier three times during the winter season, including 4.67 meters (15-4) during the indoor DuKane Conference meet to finally get the school record.

“It was such a big mental barrier. It just seemed like a big bar just because there was a school record tied to 15-3, so it just felt like a huge barrier that I had to overcome,” McLoughlin said. “But as soon as I did it, those heights at 15 feet were just normal heights for me after that.”

McLoughlin cleared 15 feet on seven of his final 13 appearances in the pole vault pit this season, including each of his last six.

Not bad for someone who didn’t know pole vault heading into his freshman track and field season.

Harrington, who was his math teacher at the time, introduced McLoughlin, who also plays football and wrestles, to pole vault after McLoughlin made the decision to come out for track and field in 2022.

Little did the track and field coach know it was a perfect fit for McLoughlin.

St Charles North's Nathan McLoughlin performs in the pole vault during DuKane Boys Indoor Track and Field Conference Championships. Mar 16, 2024

“I didn’t tell him that I was down to do anything except for just running around,” McLoughlin said. “It legit bores me to run from Point A to Point B as fast you can. But with pole vault, I just had to run and then launch myself up as high up as possible, which I thought was fun.”

McLoughlin said it wasn’t until he made his first trip to Charleston his freshman year that his relationship with the sport changed. While he came down to watch vaulters Charles Algera and Logan Turney, something clicked for him while watching the other vaulters.

“When I got down there, I was like, ‘So this is what good vaulters look like,’ ” McLoughlin said. “In my head I knew that I was next in line and I had to improve by like three feet to go to state and somehow I did.”

While Harrington knew McLoughlin was a strong kid, even back when the two briefly were neighbors in the late 2000s, he said McLoughlin has really honed his craft throughout his time in the pit.

“He’s using that strength to become a real vaulter,” Harrington said. “He’s got a great swing and he can finish it with that strength. He’s still got a long ways to go, but he’s got a huge upside.”

McLoughlin has one year left on the high school scene and is set to be the top returner in Class 3A competition in 2025. While a state championship would be nice, he hopes to add a little more to his resume by the end of his high school career, this time with a healthy ankle.

“I know people will have their eyes on me, so I just want to get as high as possible and I’m shooting to get onto the national leaderboard,” McLoughlin said. “I want to be on the top three on that, which would be a very impressive feat.”