USATF Men’s Pole Vault — Continuing A Streak That Began In 2014

Sam Kendricks was his typical no-miss self as he won his fifth national title in a row. (KIRBY LEE/IMAGE OF SPORT)

Sam Kendricks continued his dominance of the men’s vault with his fifth straight national title, clearing a seasonal best 19-2¼ (5.85), a Drake Stadium record. That made him only the third ever—following two legends of the event—to win 5 titles in a row. Bob Richards did it 1948–52 and Dutch Warmerdam pulled off the feat 1940–1944 (2 of the Richards wins were shared titles, back in the no-tiebreak days). Kendricks is just 25; Richards was 26 when his string ended, Warmerdam 29.

The winner employed his usual strategy of attempting every height and succeeded in clearing each of the 7 with military precision until the bar reached 19-4¼ (5.90) and he finally missed three times.

Although the 22-man field was a bit larger than normal, Kendricks embraced his role as a leader in the event, noting that it is important to give the younger vaulters experience at that level, saying, “This is a place for young jumpers to cut their teeth. To really shine and see the upper level because I might not jump against these guys all year until we come here. It’s time for the older guys to be really put to the test. To show the younger generation what it takes and what it looks like if you want to represent the USA.”

Kendricks also praised the local officials for correctly predicting that the wind would change directions. While the contestants generally warmed up into a headwind, the wind shifted when the bar went up and it was mostly a tailwind during the competition.

Outdoor U.S. list leader Chris Nilsen, wrapping up his soph year at South Dakota, was the runner-up with a clearance of 19-¼ (5.80), improving a spot on last year’s finish. The 20-year-old was fresh off an NCAA title, and a year of major life changes that included getting married and becoming a father. He said the changes in lifestyle helped him learn better time management and the importance of sleep.

Third place finisher Cole Walsh was the surprise performer of the day, breaking his PR 3 times by clearing 18-6½ (5.65), 18-8¼ (5.70) and 18-10¼ (5.75). Walsh noted after the meet that he had only cleared 18-4½ (5.60) for the first time three weeks prior. He credited his coach, ’00 Olympic gold medalist Nick Hysong, for his success, explaining that they worked hard to take advantage of the speed and strength he had developed at Oregon, and fine tune the movements to translate it into higher pole vaulting.

Indoor champion Scott Houston finished 4th with an equal season best of 18-8¼ (5.70), while 5th-place finisher Andrew Irwin cleared the same bar as Houston, but on his second attempt versus Houston’s first.


(June 23)

1. Sam Kendricks (Nik) 19-2¼ (5.85);

2. Chris Nilsen (SD) 19-¼ (5.80);

3. Cole Walsh (unat) 18-10¼ (5.75) PR;

4. Scott Houston (Shore) 18-8¼;

5. Andrew Irwin (ArVault) 18-8¼;

6. Matt Ludwig (Akr) 18-6½ (5.65);

7. Jake Albright (unat) 18-2½ (5.55);

8. Austin Miller (unat) 18-2½ PR;

=9. Tray Oates (Samf) 17-10½ (5.45);

=9. Garrett Starkey (unat) 17-10½;

=9. Luke Winder (NCen) 17-10½;

=9. Audie Wyatt (TxAM) 17-10½;

…nh—Mike Arnold (unat), Dylan Bell (USAF), Jeff Coover (unat), Logan Cunningham (unat), KC Lightfoot (MoHS), Chris Pillow (unat), Nate Richartz (NDm), Deakin Volz (VaT), Drew Volz (unat), Jacob Wooten (TxAM). □