USD's Nilsen dominates at Drake Relays

DES MOINES, Iowa—South Dakota junior Chris Nilsen took gold in the invitational pole vault at the 110th Drake Relays on Saturday inside Drake Stadium.

Nilsen topped Olympic medalist Sam Kendricks in head-to-head competition for the first time in his career. It marked the fifth meeting between the two with a pair of Drake Relays and a pair of U.S. Outdoor Championships. Nilsen vaulted 19 feet, 2 ¼ inches, for a new season best that broke the Drake Relays record and tied Drake Stadium's facility record set by Kendricks at the 2018 U.S. Outdoor Championships.

2019 marks the year of the collegiate pole vault. Nilsen vaulted both an NCAA and world-leading height of 19-1 last weekend. While Nilsen improved his mark at Drake on Saturday, freshman sensation Mondo Duplantis of LSU vaulted 19-5 ¾ on the same day to take over the top spot. Collegians own three of the top-six marks in the world this outdoor season.

In NCAA outdoor history, Nilsen owns two marks in the top-10 and five marks in the top-15. Nilsen's personal best of 19-2 ¾ came last year at the Howard Wood Dakota Relays in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

South Dakota returns to Vermillion with four 2019 Drake Relays flags, including Nilsen's elite title, for the most in a single year in school history. The Coyotes have won 25 Drake Relays titles all-time.

Sophomore Macy Heinz returned from last night's record-setting 4x800-meter relay to place third in the open 800 meters with a clocking of 2:12.52.

The quartet of junior Samara Spencer, senior Karina Dufoe, sophomore Danielle Thompson and junior Tasheka Gordon placed fourth in both the 4x100-meter and 4x200-meter relays. The Coyotes clocked 47.99 seconds for the 4x100 relay. South Dakota recorded the fourth-fastest time in school history in the 4x200 relay with a clocking of 1:39.60.

The women's shuttle hurdle relay also placed fourth on Saturday with a time of 59.70. Senior Haley Bruggeman, junior Carmen Bermudez, redshirt-freshman Madason Tessier and senior Alanisse Williams finished less than two seconds off the school record in the event.

Sophomore Jackson Coker led a trio of Coyotes in the men's discus with a 10th-place finish in 168-2. Senior Ben Hammer took 12th and junior Kino Dunkley was 16th.

South Dakota wraps up the regular season at the Howard Wood Dakota Relays next weekend at Howard Wood Field in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.