Walker Wins NCAA Pole Vault Title With World's Third-Best Mark
March 14, 2003
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - Husky senior pole vaulter Brad Walker soared to a national title Friday at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships, clearing 19'-0 ¼". Walker routed the field at the NCAA meet by nearly nine inches, in the process becoming the first athlete in Pac-10 history -- and one of only five in the world this season -- to clear the elite 19-foot mark.
The win earned 10 team points for the Husky men, placing them in a tie for sixth after one day of the two-day meet. Host Arkansas leads with 19 points, followed by Nebraska at 16.
Walker, who earned his third All-American certificate, bettered by three inches the Pac-10 record of 18'-9 ¼" set by Toby Stevenson of Stanford in 2000. With the vault, the Spokane, Wash., native moves into a tie for third with American Derek Miles and France's Romain Mesnil in the 2003 IAAF World Rankings.
"Everything worked out exactly as I could have hoped," said Walker after the event. "I've been setting my sights on 19 feet all season, so it feels great to finally get it."
The top-ranked vaulter entering the competition, Walker cleared his first three heights on his first attempt at each. By the time the competition reached 18'-3 ¾", only Walker and Nebraska senior Eric Eshbach remained. Eshbach cleared the mark on his first try, and Walker responded in kind. Eshbach finally dropped out of the competition at 18'-6 ¼", failing to clear on any of his three attempts, while Walker cleared on his second.
As the lone remaining competitor, the Husky asked that the bar be raised to 19'-0 ¼". Walker missed on his first attempt, but cleared on his second, despite grazing the bar as he went over. He made three attempts at 19'-3" -- which would have given him the world lead in 2003 -- but missed all three.
"It was awesome, and then some," said first-year head coach Greg Metcalf.
Vaults coach Pat Licari agreed. "It's tough when you come in as the favorite; there's a lot of pressure," he said. "Brad's never been one to back away from pressure, though, and he sure showed that tonight."
Walker's title brings to 25 the number of NCAA crowns earned by Husky track and field athletes all-time, but is the first for UW since Ja'Warren Hooker won the NCAA title at 55 meters indoors in 1998.
While Walker spearheaded the Huskies' effort in the field events, senior Courtney Inman made noise on the track, earning one of 10 spots in Saturday's final of the women's mile.
Running in the second of two preliminary heats, Inman crossed the line in 4 minutes, 42.76 seconds, good for fourth in the heat and eighth overall. The Abbotsford, B.C., native entered the meet ranked ninth in the event with a school-record mark of 4:40.24, more than five seconds ahead of any other runner in school history.
Top-ranked qualifier Tiffany McWilliams of Mississippi State won the heat in 4:38.11, earning the top seed for Saturday's final, scheduled to begin at 4:05 p.m. PST.
This marks the third NCAA competition for Inman, who most recently placed 10th in the 1,500-meter final at the 2002 NCAA Outdoor Championships. She has already assured herself of bettering her NCAA mile finish of a year ago, when she ran 4:46.83 and missed the final, placing 14th overall.
Joining Inman on the track Saturday will be Husky senior Jeremy Park, who will attempt to better his fifth-ranked qualifying mark of 7:54.13 in the men's 3,000 meters. Park's time established a new school record, and was a full 16 seconds faster than his personal best entering the 2003 season. Rounding out Washington's competition at this year's NCAA Indoor Championships will be sophomore Kate Soma, who enters the meet ranked 11th in the nation in the pole vault with a school-record clearance of 13'-3 ¾".
The women's pole vault is scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m. PDT Saturday, with the finals of the women's mile at 4:05 p.m., and the men's 3,000 meters at 5:40 p.m.
For complete results, visit the official site of the University of Arkansas at www.ladybacks.com.