Austin, Texas, April 13-14—Asked premeet why vaulting superstars like World Record holder Renaud Lavillenie and American Record holder Jenn Suhr would compete in a relatively minor meet like the Texas Invitational, a University spokesman answered, “Because Myers Stadium is the best vaulting stadium in America.”
A few hours later, he had yet more numbers to back that claim. In fact, although it lacked the drama of the Texas Relays 2 weeks before, the Invitational actually produced better winning marks, with Lavillenie claiming the yearly world lead and Suhr producing the highest outdoor jump of the year.
The 36-year-old Suhr leapt to a first-attempt 16-2 (4.93)—her first outdoor PR in almost 10 years—while Lavillenie scored a third-attempt 19-6¼ (5.95), 3cm higher than his Relays duel with Shawn Barber and Mondo Duplantis.
The two Invitational “competitions” weren’t too competitive—instead, they were individual showcases for the respective stars, both passing until all other entrants were eliminated, and entering at substantially higher heights than the runners-up.
Suhr started with easy clearances at 15-1½ (4.61) and 15-5½ (4.71). The ’12 Olympic gold medalist had only marginally more trouble at 16-2, brushing the bar but still getting another first-time make. She tried twice at 16-5¼ (5.01) and called it a day without trying a third.
“A little bit of shifty winds” were to blame for skipping the third attempt, Suhr said, “and it was catching my pole tip a little bit. At 4.93 I felt it, and at 5.01 my first attempt was good, the second attempt it caught my pole tip, and the third I could feel it. The winds were swirling, and we just decided it was best to put the pole away.”
Suhr’s good day, one which produced the 16th 16-footer of her career, almost didn’t happen: “I had one of the worst warmups I’ve ever had, to the point that we thought maybe it shouldn’t happen today, maybe today’s not my day. I sucked it up and made some bars.”
After a couple of summers that have seen her perform poorly at global championships, Suhr looks to be back on the upswing.
“I’ve been pretty healthy the last couple of years,” she said. “It’s really just getting into the swing of things. Enjoying jumping, that’s the hardest part. When you’ve been in the sport so long, you lose a little bit of that passion. We’ve been based in Texas, and jumping with high school and college kids, and they have that energy, and it’s really helped.”
“The sun! Back in New York I think they’re under freeze and winter storm warnings.”
And hour and a half later, it was Lavillenie’s turn. An expected battle of multiple Olympic or world-class vaulters quickly fizzled out: his French compatriots either stalled out or did not start and Texan Logan Cunningham no-heighted.
Lavillenie joined in at 18-4½ (5.60) and was perfect through 18-10¼ (5.75) and 19-2¼ (5.85).
Then it was time to up his outdoor world lead from 14 days earlier and things finally got challenging. At 19-6¼, he brushed the bar off with his knee on first attempt and kicked it off on his second, before a triumphant, fist-pumping success on the third.
Of three shots at 19-8½ (6.01), the first had promise, while the third had him grimacing in pain. “The last jump was quite hard,” he said. “The bar fell on my head. It happens, that’s the pole vault. I just have to put some ice on it.
“I’m feeling very happy,” the 31-year-old Frenchman said of his day. “Because the beginning was very hard, very tough. Two weeks ago, the wind was easy, the jump was easy. I was very confident to jump high today. I was more confident about jumping 5.70, maybe high 5.80s, but not that kind of height. I was very happy to be able to improve my level, height after height. It’s still 5.95. I still have some work to do.
“You saw a problem from guys [capable of] jumping 5.60 just able to do 5.30 because the wind was really hard to manage. Sometimes it was very strong, sometimes a crosswind, so it was not very easy to manage the pole. It was just a question of, I needed a window at a good time.”
Like Suhr, Lavillenie and his compatriots have enjoyed an extended stay in the Lone Star State.
“I’ve been training here,” he explained. “I’m very happy about the time I spent here. The two competitions were very good, the place for training is just amazing. I will think about it for next year and maybe come back and try to do better than this year.
“Now we can go back home and have some very good memories for next year.”
Judging by the very lengthy post-competition line of fans, athletes, and meet officials waiting for selfies with him, it’s fair to say Austin is looking forward to it.
TEXAS INVITATIONAL MEN’S RESULTS
Austin, April 13-14—
(4/13—200, 800, LJ, SP, HT, JT)
100(3.2): 1. Bryce Robinson (unat) 10.10w; 2. *Mario Burke’ (Hous) 10.28w; 3. Emmanuel Matadi’ (Lbr) 10.29w.
200: I(5.6)–1. Robinson 20.41w; 2. Terrell Smith (KsSt) 20.60w.
II(2.5)–1. Amir James (NWnLa) 20.70w; 2. *Wil London (Bay) 20.72w; 3. *Kahmari Montgomery (Hous) 20.74w.
800: 1. **Michael Saruni’ (UTEP) 1:48.39; 2. ***Sam Worley (Tx) 1:48.63.
HJ: 1. Ty Anderson (UTSA) 7-1¾ (2.18) PR.
PV: 1. Luke Winder (NCen) 17-8½ (5.40).
Inv PV: 1. Renaud Lavillenie’ (Fra) 19-6¼ (5.95) (WL) (18-4½, 18-10¼, 19-2¼, 19-6¼ , 19-8½ [xxx]) (5.60, 5.75, 5.85, 5.95 , 6.01 [xxx]);
2. Stanley Joseph’ (Fra) 17-6½ (5.35);… nh—Logan Cunningham (Nik).
LJ: 1. Adrian Riley’ (UTSA) 25-5¼w (7.75); 2. ***Denzel Green (SFA) 25-3½ (7.71) PR.
SP: 1. ***Tripp Piperi (Tx) 64-3¼ (19.59); 2. *T’Mond Johnson (TxSt) 63-4¾ (19.32); 3. **Andrew Liskowitz (Mi) 62-9¼ (19.13); 4. *Brett Neelly (KsSt) 62-3¼ (18.98).
HT: 1. *Joe Ellis’ (Mi) 232-11 (71.00) PR; 2. *Adam Kelly (Prin) 224-8 (68.48); 3. Mitch Dixon (KsSt) 220-3 (67.14).
JT: 1. Fabian Dohmann’ (Tx) 234-6 (71.48).
TEXAS INVITATIONAL WOMEN’S RESULTS
(4/13—200, LJ, SP, HT, JT)
100(3.1): 1. Tawanna Meadows (unat) 11.19w; 2. Candyce McGrone (unat) 11.44w; 3. *Teahna Daniels (Tx) 11.45w.
200: I(2.2)–1. Natasha Hastings (UArm) 22.75w; 2. *Taylor Bennett (Bay) 23.23w; 3. Courtney Okolo (Nik) 23.34w.
II(2.0)–1. De’Shalyn Jones (NWnLa) 23.04 PR; 2. A’Keyla Mitchell (KsSt) 23.24.
400: 1. *Zola Golden (Tx) 52.93.
100H(2.8): 1. Pedrya Seymour’ (Tx) 13.16w.
400H: 1. Melissa Gonzalez’ (Col) 58.30; 2. Ariel Jones (Tx) 59.06.
PV: 1. Jenn Suhr (adi) 16-2 (4.93) outPR (out WL, AL) (x, =21 W; x, =8 A; non-Isi: x, =8 W) (her 16th 16-footer) (15-1½, 15-5½, 16-2, 16-5¼ [xxx]) (4.61, 4.71, 4.93, 5.01 [xxx]).
LJ: 1. **Wurrie Njadoe (KsSt) 20-2½w (6.16).
TJ: 1. *Shardia Lawrence’ (KsSt) 43-5¼ (13.24); 2. **Konstantina Romaiou’ (KsSt) 42-2 (12.85).
DT: 1. *Shadae Lawrence’ (KsSt) 192-6 (58.68); 2. ***Obiageri Amaechi (Prin) 176-0 (53.64); 3. **Elena Bruckner (Tx) 171-10 (52.37).
HT: 1. Janee’ Kassanavoid (KsSt) 213-6 (65.09); 2. **Helene Ingvaldsen’ (KsSt) 209-2 (63.76); 3. *Taylor Scaife (Hous) 204-7 (62.37) PR.
JT: 1. Haley Crouser (Tx) 167-2 (50.96).