In Birmingham, Alabama, Washington’s Jax Thoirs (above/photo courtesy UW Athletics) won the school’s fifth NCAA indoor pole vault title in the past fourteen years, as the Scottish national took home the victory in the first day of the NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships at the Birmingham Crossplex.
Thoirs entered at the opening height of 17-2.75 (5.25m) and cleared it with no problem. He missed once but then made 17-6.75 (5.35m), but then ran into his first real drama at 17-10.75 (5.45m), as he had two near misses. At that point, Thoirs said he knew only one other vaulter had made that height, and it was one he’d made many times in his career, and twice this season, so he couldn’t let the opportunity pass. He planted and swung up and sailed over the bar, letting out a roar on the way down.
With four jumpers remaining, Thoirs, who was the last of the four in the jumping order, made 18-0.5 (5.50m) on his second attempt, and watched as the other three competitors missed on their third attempt.
He then took two shots at the Olympic standard of 18-8.5 (5.70m), running through on his first attempt, and pulling up on his second before calling it a day.
“I am absolutely over the moon,” said Thoirs. “I honestly can’t believe it. This has been my goal all along since I’ve been at Washington, to finally get the win at my last indoor championships feels amazing. It definitely felt like it was a possibility. The NCAA hasn’t been particularly high in the pole vault this year, so even not jumping at my best I was still right up in there and it was a wide open competition, and I had to take advantage of it, and I’m glad I did.”
In one of the most scintillating races of Friday’s program, it took an anchor leg of 3:52.84 by Oregon’s Edward Cheserek to deny the Washington quartet of Colby Gilbert, Jacopo Spano, Blake Nelson, and Izaic Yorks a victory in the distance medley relay, as the Ducks defeated the Huskies for the national title 9:27.27, to 9:28.00.
The Dawgs held the lead for the first three legs, but saw Cheserek, who won the men’s 5000 less than 30 minutes earlier in 13:47.89, come back and dart past UW anchor Izaic Yorks over the last half lap with a move that even the great Bernard Lagat would be proud of.
Yorks, who will run the 3000 Saturday along with Gilbert, split a time of 3:54.24, the second fastest of the night by over 3.5 seconds.
A few moments later, the Washington women’s distance medley relay team of Baylee Mires, Krista Armstead, Eleanor Fulton, and Maddie Meyers replicated the second place finish by the men’s team, as they ran 10:58.52, as Meyers ran a 4:34.33 1600 split, but could not catch Georgetown anchor Katrina Coogan, as she led the Hoyas to the victory in a time of 10:57.21.
Aaron Nelson of the Huskies finished 11th in the 5000, running 14:00.74.
In qualifying action, Federal Way’s Hannah Cunliffe of Oregon ran the fastest time of the day in the women’s 60, clocking 7.12, while the Huskies’ Kennadi Bouyer snatched the final spot in Saturday’s final, running 7.27 in finishing sixth in her heat. Cunliffe came back and ran 22.96 in the 200 to advance to Saturday’s final.
Puyallup native David Elliott of Boise State advanced to the finals in the mile, finishing fourth in his heat in 4:07.59.
Eleanor Fulton of the Huskies advanced to the finals in the mile, running 4:38.37, finishing sixth in her heat.
FALCONS PLACE FIFTH IN DMR
In Pittsburg, Kansas, the Seattle Pacific distance medley relay team of Lynelle Decker, Jahzelle Ambus, Chynna Phan and Anna Patti finished fifth in a time of 11:32.17 to highlight the first day of competition at the NCAA Division II indoor championship meet.
Decker also qualified for the finals in the 800, running 2:10.19.
In other finals, Western Washington’s Miranda Osadchey finished in a tie for 11th in the women’s high jump with a best of 5-5.25 (1.66m), with Seattle Pacific’s Geneva Lehnert finishing 14th at the same height.
Georgia Porter of Western State (Colorado), a native of Stevenson, who ran at Hockinson HS, finished fifth in the 5000, running 16:18.39.
Qualifying action saw Travis Milbrandt of Western Washington run 8.22 in the 60 hurdles. Seattle Pacific's Jahzelle Ambus (55.70) and Jalen Tims (56.79) of Seattle Pacific didn’t advance in the women’s 400, as was the case with teammates Chyanna Phan (2:12.42) in the 800 and Maliea Luquin (8.53) in the 60 hurdles.
NOTE: The NCAA, the University of Washington, and Seattle Pacific's sports information offices contributed to this report.