BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The future of NCAA pole vaulting looks sky-high.
Heck, the present, too.
Five of the top 10 finishers in the event at Friday’s opening day of the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships were freshmen. That includes Baylor’s KC Lightfoot, who achieved the first All-America honor of his career by finishing eighth.
Lightfoot becomes the seventh Baylor men’s pole vaulter to be an All-American, and the first since Jim Autenreith in the outdoor season in 2002. Autenreith wished Lightfoot good luck on Twitter earlier in the day. Prior to Lightfoot, the last BU vaulter to reach All-America heights during the indoor season was Bill Payne in 1991.
Sometimes you find the event. Other times the event finds you.
Lightfoot’s professional coach while he was in high school, Todd Cooper, was Baylor’s first All-American in the event in 1984.
Lightfoot cleared 18-51/2 on his second attempt. He tied four other vaulters at that mark, but came in eighth due to more overall misses. Kansas had two vaulters also go 18-51/2 – freshman Zach Bradford (fourth) and senior Hussain Al Hizam (sixth).
LSU’s freshman phenom Mondo Duplantis won the NCAA title with a facility-record jump of 18-91/2. Duplantis, a Swedish-American star, holds the under-20 world record for the event.
Baylor senior Wil London did what he had to do to advance to the 400-meter final. Though London didn’t approach anything near his season-best time, he finished third in his semifinal heat with a time of 46.87 to move on to Saturday’s final.
London, who owns a season-best of 45.13, will compete for his first career NCAA title at 5 p.m. Central. But he’ll face some stiff competition, including his conference rival Derrick Mokaleng (46.52) of TCU. The rest of the field for the final includes Houston’s Kahmari Montgomery and Obi Igbokew, South Carolina State’s Quincy Hall, Florida’s Benjamin Lobo Vdedel, South Carolina’s Quincy Hall and Liberty’s Alejandro Zapata.
On the women’s side, BU senior Kiana Horton was unable to get out of her semifinal races in both the 200 and 400. In the 400, Horton finished 12th with a time of 53.29, while she came in 16th in the 200 at 23.73.
On Saturday, Baylor will close out the NCAA meet with three entries – sophomore Tuesdi Tidwell in the women’s pole vault, along with the women’s and men’s 4x400 relays.