The random seeding of the vault played out in interesting fashion: the 3 top seeds—all previous national champions, were slotted 1-2-3, with Matt Ludwig (’17 Outdoor) being followed by Chris Nilsen (’17 Indoor) and Hussain Al-Hizam (’18 Indoor).
The big 3 all passed at the opener of 16-10¾ (5.15). They proceeded to clear the next two heights (17-4½/5.30 & 17-10½/5.45) on their first tries, although Kansas junior Al-Hizam seemed to struggle with his technique, not getting good lift. Joining them with successful clearances were Torben Laidig, Deakin Volz & Joel Benitez of Virginia Tech, Jacob Wooten of Texas A&M, Tray Oates of Samford, Adam Coulon of Indiana and Marc Toney of UC Davis.
When the bar was raised to 18-2½ (5.55), there was separation. Akron junior Ludwig looked confident, topping the bar with blue sky to spare. Nilsen struggled on his first, pushing the bar off the pegs. “There was a strange wind out there, but I felt good,” said the South Dakota soph. “My coach [Olympic medalist Derek Miles] recommended that I move up to a stronger pole and I made my second try. So I stuck with that pole.”
Laidig needed 3 at 17-10½ as did Wooten but the German topped 18-2½ (5.55) on his first for 3rd and the A&M junior took all 3 for 4th. Al-Hizam was matched by 6-time Southern Conference champ Tray Oates of Samford to tie for 5th.
Defending champ Ludwig faltered at 18-4½ (5.60) and, when Nilsen sailed over, had to pass. Said Nilsen of his earlier miss, “Every mistake is a learning experience, so I made the adjustment.”
Ludwig missed again at 18-6½ (5.65). But Nilsen didn’t. That demanded another pass to 18-8½ (5.70), where he couldn’t get off the pole and had to settle for 2nd.
Nilsen cleared that bar with confidence and had the crosspiece raised to a meet record 19-1½ (5.83) which he negotiated with a powerful knee drive and inches to spare. That displaced Lawrence Johnson’s 19-1 (5.82) from ’96. It was Nilsen’s fifth 19-footer of ‘18. His 3 tries at a PR 19-4¼ (5.90), which would have put him in a tie for No. 3 on the all-time collegiate list, weren’t close.
NCAA MEN’S POLE VAULT RESULTS
1. **Chris Nilsen (SD) 19-1½ (5.83) (MR);
2. *Matt Ludwig (Akr) 18-2½ (5.55);
3. Torben Laidig’ (VaT) 18-2½;
4. *Jacob Wooten (TxAM) 18-2½ PR;
=5. *Hussain Al-Hizam’ (Ks) 17-10½ (5.45);
=5. Tray Oates (Samf) & 17-10½;
7. *Deakin Volz (VaT) 17-10½;
8. ***Joel Benitez’ (VaT) 17-10½;
9. **Adam Coulon (In) 17-10½ PR;
10. Marc Toney (UCD) 17-10½ PR;
=11. *Sean Collins (SAl) 17-4½ (5.30);
=11. Nate Richartz (NDm) 17-4½;
13. *Drew McMichael (TxT) 17-4½;
14. Audie Wyatt (TxAM) 17-4½;
15. *Blake Scott (OkSt) 17-4½;
16. Craig Hunter (Ct) 17-4½;
=17. **Elijah Cole (Char) 16-10¾ (5.15);
=17. ***Sander Moldau’ (WaSt) 16-10¾;
19. ***Clayton Fritsch (SHous) 16-10¾;
20. Scott Marshall (GCan) 16-10¾ (5.15);
… nh— *Jake David (SD), Cole Gorski (OhSt), Devin King (SEnLa), Nick Meyer (Ks). □