Olympic Trials Women’s Vault — 3 Battled Back From Brink

Seventh at USAs in ’22 and 4th last year, Bridget Williams kept her card clean until she had won. (KEVIN MORRIS)

WHAT STARTED AS a bad day in the qualifying round and barely advancing to the final ended with spots on the Olympic team for NCAA DII champion Brynn King and Bridget Williams. Tokyo champion Katie Moon overcame injury woes to earn a chance to defend her Olympic title.

Both King and Williams failed to make 14-9 (4.50) in qualifying. Luckily for them, only 10 cleared that bar and both were able to advance to the final as part of a 3-way tie for 11th.

Afterward, Williams told King, “Let’s come back on Sunday and make that team!” giving King a much-needed boost of confidence.

In the final, there were 8 left when the bar was raised to the fourth height, 15-2¼ (4.63). Williams, ’16 Olympic bronze medalist Sandi Morris and Amanda Moll all cleared on first attempts, a lifetime best for Moll, while reigning Olympic champion Katie Moon, King, Hana Moll, Chloe Timberg and Gabriela Leon all missed their first.

King’s coaches, Rick and Jenn Suhr, decided it would be best for her to pass to the next height since she was now unable to move into the top 3 by clearing 15-2¼. Leon also passed.

Moon made 15-2¼ with ease on her second attempt and Hana Moll matched her twin, an outdoor season best. Timberg cleared on her third shot.

At 15-4¼ (4.68) there were still 8 remaining: Moon, Morris and Williams all cleared on their first attempts, prompting King to pass without even attempting the bar, because she still could not move into the top 3 with a clearance.

For the Molls, the bar was at an American U20 Record, but despite close attempts, neither was able to break the record. Timberg and Leon were also unable to clear.

As the bar was raised to 15-6¼ (4.73), the Olympic team looked all but set. Williams and Morris were tied for 1st and Moon was in 3rd. King was still in the competition, but the bar was now above her lifetime best and she only had two attempts remaining.

Moon made 15-6¼ easily on her first attempt. Morris overpowered her pole and dislodged the bar on the way up. Williams also cleared on her first to take the lead, now the lone vaulter with no misses and tying her outdoor best.

King was fourth in the order, and much to the surprise of everyone but herself and her coaches, she sailed over the bar cleanly on her first attempt, moving into 3rd.

Morris took her second attempt at the same height, but despite grabbing a bigger stick, she still had too much pole speed. She moved to an even bigger implement for her third attempt, but she blew through that pole as well, the biggest pole she had used all season. Morris finished 4th, her lowest in a national championship since ’14.

At the remaining bars none of the vaulters had good attempts and Williams emerged as the surprise winner over Moon based on fewer misses. This was 28-year-old Virginia alum Williams’ first USA title.

Moon, winner of the last 3 majors (Tokyo, Oregon22, Budapest23), struggled this spring through Achilles tendinitis so severe that 7½ weeks earlier she was unable to vault at all. “But the upside,” she said, “is I do feel like it’s the beginning of the season and I just wanted to get through today. I’ll definitely be good to go for Paris because I am starting to get running workouts in and I am starting to build things back up. It’s not ideal but that’s what the sport is.”


FINAL (June 30)

1. Bridget Williams (unat) 15-6¼ (4.73) =out PR;

2. Katie Moon (Nike) 15-6¼ (4.73);

3. Brynn King (RobW) 15-6¼ (4.73) PR (=10, x A);

4. Sandi Morris (Puma) 15-4¼ (4.68);

5. Amanda Moll (Wa) 15-2¼ (4.63) PR (=5, =7 WJ;, 2, =3 AJ)

6. Hana Moll (Wa) 15-2¼ (4.63) (x, =7 WJ; x, =3 AJ);

7. Chloe Timberg (Rut) 15-2¼ (4.63);

8. Gabriela Leon (Puma) 14-10¼ (4.53);

9. tie, Riley Felts (Char) & Emily Grove (unat) 14-6¼ (4.43); 11. tie, Rachel Baxter (unat) & Kristen Leland (unat) 14-6¼ (4.43); 13. Marissa Kalsey (unat) 14-6¼ (4.43).


Qualifiers: Baxter, King & Williams cleared 14-3¼/4.35, all other finalists cleared 14-9/4.50;

Non-Qualifiers: [14-3¼/4.35] — Ka’leila Abrille (UCLA), Kristen Brown (unat), Molly Haywood (Bay);

[13-9¼/4.20] — Sydney Horn (HPt), Olivia Lueking (Ok), Kenzie Beukes (unat), Jessica Mercier (In), Mason Meinershagen (Ks);

[nh]—Megan Houston (Vaulth), Tori Thomas (Il), Kyla Davis (PittSt).

14-½ 14-6¼ 14-10¼ 15-2¼ 15-4¼ 15-6¼ 15-8¼ 15-10
Moon p p o xo o o p xxx
H. Moll o o xo xo xxx
A. Moll o o xo o xxx
Morris p p o o o xxx
Timberg o o xxo xxo xxx
Leon o o o xp xx
Grove o o xxx
Kalsey xxo xo xxx
Williams p o o o o o xxx
Leland xo xo xxx
King o p xo xp p o x
Baxter xo xo xxx
Felts o o xxx
4.28 4.43 4.53 4.63 4.68 4.73 4.78 4.83