Kevin Cahoy’s gymnastics career lasted until the fourth grade.
While he wasn’t going to follow his father as an Olympic-level athlete in the gym, Cahoy has used the coordination and competitiveness he learned there in other sports.
He leaves Grand Island High School as a Husker pole-vault recruit who’s seventh on the state’s all-time chart, an American Legion center fielder who had a baseball scholarship offer from Creighton and an All-Nebraska linebacker who might have been at the Division I level in football, too.
“He had the potential to be D-I in all three,” Islander football coach Jeff Tomlin said. “He’s such an exceptional all-around athlete. It wouldn’t have shocked me if he had gone out for wrestling and won a state title. Or won state in tennis.
“Whatever sport he picks up, he works hard. He commits himself fully to it while having a knack of being pretty good at it.”
Cahoy is The World-Herald Nebraska boys athlete of the year. The son of Phil and Diana Cahoy is the first honored from Grand Island since John Sanders in 1964.
“I’ve known about the (award) since I was in middle school,” Cahoy said. “I always hoped to be one of those people, and I looked up to those who were the athletes of the year.”
Phil Cahoy was a finalist for the award in 1979, his senior year at Omaha South. Cahoy made the 1980 U.S. men’s gymnastics team while at NU, but the country boycotted the Moscow Olympics and he couldn’t compete.
This year’s other finalists were Youhanna Ghaifan of Grand Island Central Catholic, Tanner Borchardt of Gothenburg, Matt Clark of Syracuse, Vance Janssen of Blair and Malik Hluchoweckyj of Bellevue West.
Middle school is when Cahoy was introduced to the pole vault. His art teacher, Geoff Cyboron, “talked me into doing it and my mom pushed it over the edge and made me do it.
“I loved vaulting from the start. It’s a unique sport, something not a lot of people do.”
His gymnastics training proved invaluable. “It mainly helps with air awareness and how to swing,” he said.
Cahoy also loved baseball, which like track and field is a spring sport in the state. So when he got to high school, he chose to stick with vaulting and not play baseball until the Legion summer season.
He was fifth in Class A as a freshman, when older brother Steve won the first of his two all-class gold medals. Kevin finished second to Steve the following year.
Steve, now an NCAA national qualifier at NU, didn’t start vaulting until Kevin got to high school.
“Behind the scenes, Kevin was improving every single track meet,” Islander boys coach Monte Fyfe said. “And they’d cheer for each other. I remember the year they were 1-2, Kevin had to come from behind to capture second and Steve was rooting him on.
“When Kevin was looking at colleges this year, I reminded him how much fun he could have competing together with Steve again.”
Kevin won Class A as a junior at 15-10, but the all-class gold went to Class C’s Tyler Loontjer of Fillmore Central at 16-2½.
This spring, the gold was easily Cahoy’s. He won Class A on his first attempt of the meet at 14-6 and cleared 16-¼ to stand seventh on the all-time chart by himself after sharing that position with four others at 16-0.
“Definitely I got better this year even though I didn’t make the heights I wanted to during the season,” he said. “The weather at meets was OK usually, but we didn’t have the greatest weather for practicing. Sometimes I could get in only one practice in two weeks.
“At state, I was definitely glad when I made that (16-¼). I knew I had the all-class gold locked in place.”
In football, Cahoy stood out as a senior at wide receiver and linebacker.
“He’s the best linebacker I ever coached, and I’ve had the good fortune to coach a lot of them,” Tomlin said. “He’s a great competitor, a clutch player. He had the knack of being in the right place at the right time. He was extremely physical, a great high school player.”
But football was the lowest of his college options, he said, partly because he saw Steve’s senior season as Grand Island’s starting quarterback end with a concussion at midseason.
“I kind of thought stuff like that happens, but it’s the nature of the sport and why I decided against going to college for football.”
He had the baseball offer from Creighton — he batted .449 for Home Federal last summer — and track and field offers from Nebraska and Texas A&M. The Huskers won out.
Fyfe can’t wait to see what Kevin does in college.
“Because his mindset is always ‘I can do this,’ once he gets away from worrying about football and baseball and can focus on the vault, well, you see where Steve is there right now,” Fyfe said. “Kevin is a strong athlete, understands vaulting. I believe they can be side by side and they can do a lot of great things.
“He already knows the guys there through the pole vault community, and he will fit in at the university right away.”
Cahoy said he thrives on the support from his sports-minded family — his mother was a track athlete and older sister Courtney played golf and tennis at Grand Island. The Cahoy brothers also played age-group tennis before high school and were regionally ranked.
“It definitely is positive my brother and my dad know how to compete. They have the right mindset for competition,” he said. “Mom, she is definitely the most positive. She always tries to find the bright side.
“They kind of let me do my own thing. There was a lot of time in team activities and team sports, and they also made sure I did individual work outside of practice.”
Kevin, who finished at the top of his class academically, wants to follow his father into a professional career in medicine. Phil Cahoy is an orthopedic surgeon, but Kevin said he’s undecided whether that’s for him as well.
“I hope to do some job-shadowing this summer to kind of get an idea of what I’d like to do,” he said. Of all his high school memories, he said, the Nebraska Shrine Bowl could be the one that stays with him the longest.
“It was just a positive event, something I was lucky and very thankful to be a part of,” Kevin said. “The trip to the (Shriner’s) hospital in Chicago was good. You saw the other side, of how some kids have to live with challenges.”
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