Two San Luis Obispo High School athletes who attracted attention from some of the nation’s top universities in their sports chose different routes — one decided to attend school 3,000 miles away and the other to stay at home.
Connor Hall signed a letter of intent to attend Duke on a track and field scholarship while soccer star Brady Candaele signed to play at Cal Poly.
Hall’s story is a bit unusual since he didn’t start seriously training in the pole vault until the summer after his sophomore season.
Hall worked with local coach and former Olympic bronze medalist Jan Johnson on the pole vault and set the San Luis Obispo High record in the event by jumping 16 feet at last year’s PAC 7 meet after initially clearing about 12 feet when he started competing.
This year, he’s one of the top high school pole vaulters in the state and had recruiting interest from top track universities including Oregon, Stanford and UCLA.
Hall also has competed in other events, including the decathlon, but expects to focus on pole vaulting in college.
“His work ethic is just incredible,” San Luis Obispo coach David Gomes said. “The guy literally can go four hours a day and then he’s stoked to do more work. He’ll vault, lift weights, go on a run. Sometimes he does too much. I sometimes will tell him rest is part of your workout.”
Hall said that Johnson helped improve his technique as well as imparted his knowledge of what kind of pole to use in various wind conditions, which improved his performances significantly.
Hall said that his official visit to Duke was about as impressive as any visit could be. He got to see Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski receive his gold medal from coaching the U.S. Olympic basketball team and a Duke basketball scrimmage. He also stormed the field with other fans at a football game against North Carolina.
“It had to be one of the best recruiting trips ever,” Hall said.
Hall said that he chose Duke mainly, though, because he felt comfortable after talking with coaches and athletes about the program, which seemed more personable than some of the other universities he visited.
“I’m a competitive guy, but I didn’t want to go somewhere where it felt like a big machine,” Hall said.
Duke also has just a few pole vaulters while some of the other schools have several, which appealed to him. The senior with a 4.0 grade-point average also said he knows he’ll get a good education at Duke and plans to study math or science.
For Candaele, who has 13 goals this season, and scored 17 as a freshman for San Luis Obispo, her goal since the age of 12 has been to play college soccer.
The midfielder and striker has her team in second place in the PAC 7. Candaele said she attracted interest from Oregon as well as Cal Poly.
“I really like the idea of staying at home,” Candaele said. “I didn’t want to leave.”
The athletic bloodlines run deep for Candaele, whose father, Casey Candaele, played Major League baseball and now coaches in the Texas Rangers organization. He also was the head baseball coach at San Luis Obispo
Candaele said that a transition into the college game she’ll need to adjust to will be the intensity of the play and the quickness in having to make decisions with the ball.
Tigers coach Kaleena Andruss played soccer at Cal Poly and believes Candaele will be a strong contributor.
“I think she’s phenomenal,” Andruss said. “She has the drive. She’s proven herself. And she’ll fit in well to Cal Poly’s possession game system well, which is a style we play, too.”