Four Coyotes represented USD at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championship in Birmingham, Alabama. Junior Chris Nilsen repeated as NCAA runner-up in the pole vault. He vaulted 18 feet, 9 1/2 inches on Friday.
Junior high jumper Zach Anderson, junior pole vaulter Helen Falda, and senior weight thrower Lara Boman also competed at the NCAA Championships, per GoYotes. This was the first year in which three pole vaulters cleared 18 feet, 9½ inches.
Due to a technical difficulty with the bar, Nilsen and other competitors had to wait roughly 90 minutes for their next jump. The bar was supposed to be set at 5.68 meters, but it was accidentally set at 5.73 meters.
“Everybody who missed at that bar where they put it wrong, got three more attempts. So, we had to wait for five more people to go through their three more attempts,” Nilsen said.
“My freshman year, I won with 18-4, so it’s a big competition difference and you can tell the pole vault pool in college is definitely growing,” Nilsen said.
LSU freshman Mondo Duplantis won the pole vault with a height of 19-½.
Nilsen said that the atmosphere of the event is very relaxed, even though the competitors understand the severity of the competition.
“Mondo and I were chatting it up … we’re all jumping really high bars and yeah we’re all competitive on that kind of national stage, but then while we’re waiting to jump or even when we’re on the runway, we’re just joking around, like we’re all pals”
“Everybody kept telling me ‘Oh, good luck. You’re going to have to beat Mondo’, and all this other stuff, but we were kind of just sitting there and having conversations about things that weren’t even pole vault-related. I was asking him about his family and he was asking me about normal guy stuff. Not really a hostile environment,” Nilsen said,
Junior pole vaulter Helen Falda enjoys the atmosphere of competing with other great athletes.
“There are 15 girls that are the best in the nation and you’re with them and it’s amazing because right there, you’re competing with the best in the nation… when you’re there, you don’t have anything to lose, so you just go hard, and compete hard. It’s a lot of fun. I love it,” Falda said.
Falda improved her position by finishing in tenth at the event. High jumper Zach Anderson didn’t let the prestige of the event impact his mental preparation.
“I just tried to come into it like it was a normal meet. Like a big meet, but a normal meet. I didn’t want it all to get to my head,” Anderson said.
Both Anderson and Falda came up a bit short in their hopes to be recognized as First Team All-Americans in their respective events, which consists of the top eight athletes from the NCAA competition.
“It was a little rough getting second team again but it’s a place I want to be and I’m happy I made it,” Anderson said.
“I think I just need a little more practice in meets like that,” Anderson said.
While the indoor track season has concluded, the outdoor season begins. After travelling to the UC Irvine Spring Break Classic, the Coyotes travel to Wayne, Nebraska for the Wildcat Classic on Friday and Saturday.