USD's Nilsen Defends NCAA Pole Vault Title

AUSTIN, Texas—Records were meant to be broken.

South Dakota junior Chris Nilsen came out on top in the toughest NCAA pole vault competition in history, going on to break his own NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championship meet record – twice – in the process on Wednesday evening. Nilsen ultimately came away with his third national title with a personal best of 19 feet, 6 ¼ inches (5.95m).

While Nilsen’s NCAA meet record height was the highlight of the evening, several other NCAA meet records in the process were broken as well. The seven men who cleared 18-8 ¼ was a record and having three men past 18-10 ¼ was also a meet record.

For comparison’s sake, Nilsen was the only vaulter to clear 18-4 ½ en route to winning his NCAA title a year ago.

The three-hour long competition included the IAAF world leader and NCAA record holder, LSU freshman phenom Mondo Duplantis, No. 2 in the world in Nilsen and four other men ranked in the top-10 of the world leaderboard.

After seven men advanced past 18-8 ¼, both Nilsen and Duplantis opted out of the next bar to watch as the field was whittled down. Only Sam Houston State’s Clayton Fritsch, who finished third at 18-10 ¼, joined them in attempting 19 feet.

Duplantis took the initial lead with a first-attempt make of 19-0 ¼, but it was Nilsen who set the stage when he made a personal best 19-4 ¼ (5.90m) on his first try.

While that bar could have won it for Nilsen, he went on to clear two inches higher by making 19-6 ¼ on a first attempt as well. Duplantis, the favorite of the competition, missed his two chances at 19-6 ¼ to continue on. After winning the competition, Nilsen also took three tries at 19-8 ½ (6.01m) in an attempt to break the overall NCAA record.

Nilsen’s 19-6 ¼ bar improves his own NCAA Championship meet record by five inches.

The height also moves Nilsen up three spots from sixth to third in NCAA history. He remains the American leader and No. 2 in the world this season, although besting this season’s mark by four inches. Nilsen also moves to No. 25 in world record books, jumping 30 spots past on the IAAF’s all-time list.

Nilsen boasts three NCAA Championship titles and six All-America accolades in his first three years at South Dakota.

The Coyotes resume action at the 2019 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships tomorrow with senior Lara Boman in the hammer throw and junior Helen Falda in the pole vault.