AUSTIN – Clayton Fritsch had the perfect day to have his best day as a Bearkat. The sophomore pole vaulter set a personal best at the NCAA Championships on Wednesday and in the process became the first Sam Houston State athlete to medal at the outdoor championship.
Fritsch jumped 18-feet, 10 ¼ inches which also set a new school record to finish third at the NCAA Championship. Chris Nilsen of South Dakota State win the event with a NCAA meet record jump of 19-6 ¼ and Mondo Duplantis from LSU took the silver with a jump of 19-1/4. Duplantis and Nilsen are the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked pole vaulters in the world, and Fritch moved to No. 7 after Wednesday’s event.
It was the first time in NCAA Championship history that three pole vaulters cleared 18-10 ¼ in the same competition.
“I don’t know what to think,” Fritsch said. “I was coming in here knowing I need to jump a big bar. I knew that bar was going to put me up there with just a couple other people. When I knew I cleared that last one I had a chance (to medal).”
Fritsch opened the day at 17-3 ¾ and cleared on his first attempt. He then did the same thing at 18-1/2. He didn’t have his first miss of the day until his first attempt at 18-4 ½. He cleared that on his second attempt.
At 18-8 1/5, Fritsch had to go all the way to his third and final attempt at that height before clearing it. That put him in a group of eight vaulters left in the competition. Of the remaining six who attempted 18-10 ¼, Fritsch was the only one to clear it. Both Duplantis and Nilsen passed to the next height of 19-3/8 which Fritsch missed on all three attempts.
“He was going out there with so much focus today,” said coach Cutter Bernhard. “I really liked the approach he had out there today and there was an ease about him. This is such a big moment for both him and this program. I’m just really proud of what he did out there today.”
In other action on Wednesday the men’s 4x100 relay team competed at the national championships for the second straight year. They finished 7thin their heat and didn’t advance to Friday’s final.
Chris Jefferson, who had qualified to run in the 100 meter dash, was injured and didn’t run on Wednesday.