Grove and Nilsen reflect on London competitions
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Grove and Nilsen reflect on London competitions

The USD track and field team sent two student-athletes to the track and field world championships in August.

Coyote pole vaulters Emily Grove and Chris Nilsen competed in London at the 2017 IAAF World Championships for Team USA.

Derek Miles, Olympic bronze medalist and USD associate director of track and field/jumps, said he knew the qualification meet to get to London was going to be a challenge.

“We knew we would have to go out and jump really well, close to our best to even have a shot at doing it and it just worked out that they went out and competed really well,” he said.

After earning her sixth All-American honor, Grove qualified to compete for Team USA by winning the jump off for third place. She was tied with Morgann LeLeux for the last spot on the team and won by tying her personal best of 4.60m. The jump punched her ticket to London for the 2017 IAAF World Championships.

“It was kind of a crazy experience,” she said.

Once in London, Grove wasn’t able to get a mark, and though the result wasn’t what she wanted, she’s grateful for the opportunity.

“I learned a lot from it and I think that’s the coolest part,” she said. “Learning from all of the other athletes, not even pole vaulters, like 100m hurdlers, 400m hurdlers, just learning and listening to their background experiences.”

Nilsen competed for Team USA once before, as a senior in high school with other athletes his age, but not with the senior team — until now.

“This is a whole other level,” he said. “Instead of being around 18- and 19-year-olds, I’m around 30-year-olds and people who get paid money to do what they love.”

At the World Championships, Nilsen was one jump shy of making finals. He took seventh in his pool after making his mark of 5.60m on the second jump.

“He (Miles) told me flat out, ‘You’re going to get your ass kicked. No 18-year-old just goes to London and, you know, medals. Just go there and have fun,’” Nilsen said.

Both Miles and Lucky Huber, director of track and field & cross country, flew to see Grove and Nilsen compete.

“I was practicing the day before I flew out to London,” Nilsen said. “And Lucky comes up to me during practice and is like, ‘Hey, I’ll see you on Monday (in London),’ just totally nonchalantly.”

Nilsen started his second year at USD and is looking to have another successful season. In his first year, he earned All-American honors by placing third in the outdoor NCAA championships and placed first in the indoor NCAA championships, among other first place finishes and awards.

Grove had competed at the professional level before competing in London, but now as a graduate from USD, she can look into extending her career as a pole vaulter.

“I have some potential that I see in myself that I kind of want to tap into before I’m ready to hang up my spikes,” she said.