In taking a look back at another successful year in Laker athletics, the Grand Valley State sports information department has put together its list of the top-10 highlights from the 2013-14 campaign. Over the next few weeks, the yearlong highlights will be released on gvsulakers.com, with the top moment of 2013-14 being revealed on Monday, July 14th.
Top-10 GVSU Highlights from 2013-14
#1: Hixson Caps Career With Third Pole Vault National Championship
The script played out like a Hollywood thriller. Grand Valley State senior Kristen Hixson – already a two-time Division II National Champion – had captured her third national title in the pole vault just moments earlier. She was now facing the final vault of her career, coincidentally on her home turf in Allendale. After missing her initial two attempts, Hixson cleared the bar with a record-breaking vault of 4.50 meters, the perfect way to end an outstanding career.
The setting was GVSU’s Track & Field Stadium for the 2014 NCAA Division II Outdoor Track & Field Championships. Hixson, who had claimed both the indoor and outdoor national titles in 2012 in Mankato, Minn. and Pueblo, Colo., respectively, entered the competition as the heavy favorite.
During the 2014 outdoor season, the senior from Remus, Mich. competed nine times in the pole vault and finished in first place in eight of those competitions. Her only non-victory was a second place finish to a former Division I All-American – and now professional – pole vaulter.
Hixson was victorious at the GLIAC Outdoor Track & Field Championships in early May with a mark of 4.33 meters. A week later, she topped 4.38 meters at the GVSU Last Chance Meet, the highest vault of her career. With one final vault, however, Hixson would rewrite the record books.
At the Outdoor Track & Field Championships on May 22, Hixson passed on the first four heights (3.60m, 3.70m, 3.80m, 3.90m), while no other athlete passed on more than two. She cleared 4.00m and 4.10m on her first attempts. Both Brigitte Gross of Sioux Falls and Stephanie Foster of Walsh were unable to clear the 4.20m mark, leaving Hixson as the only remaining competitor.
She clinched the national championship on her first attempt of 4.20m, but her work was hardly done. Next up was 4.30m and Hixson made it on her first try. The bar moved to 4.40m and although she misfired on her first attempt, the seven-time NCAA All-American cleared it with her next effort to set a new personal best.
Finally, it was up to 4.50m (which measures out to 14’9″). Hixson missed on the first attempt. She was unsuccessful on the second try. With the national championship already determined, the pressure was technically off of Hixson’s shoulders, but it was evident she wanted to land her final attempt.
That is exactly what she did, as Hixson passed over the bar and topped the 4.50m mark, as the Laker fans (and track & field fans, in general) in attendance loudly applauded the history they were seeing in person.
The final height was a new facility record, a new GVSU record, and a new Division II Outdoor Track & Field National Championships record. More than that, it was the top mark in the history of Division II outdoor pole vaulting, topping the old record of 4.44 meters.
To go further, Hixson’s vault of 4.50 meters is the highest vault in Division II championship competition history (indoor or outdoor) and by all indications, appears to be the top height in all of NCAA Division II history (indoor or outdoor). She is one of just three Division II outdoor pole vaulters to repeat as national champion and the only one to do so in non-consecutive years.
Hixson is also tied with Arkansas’ Sandi Morris and Texas’ Kaitlin Petrillose for the top outdoor pole vault in NCAA competition this year, regardless of division. In fact, you have to go back to Mar. 28, 2012 to find a higher pole vault by any NCAA competitor.
At the time of Hixson’s 4.50 meter clearing, it was the eighth-best vault this year in the entire world.
With her third title, Hixson cemented her legacy as a GVSU track and field great. She joins former Lakers Mandi Zemba, Lauren Buresh, Rachel Patterson, and Sam Lockhart as Grand Valley State women’s track and field athletes to win three or more individual Division II National Championships.
Throughout her career, Hixson scored 47 total points at the indoor and outdoor national championship competitions, the fifth-highest overall figure in GVSU history. It should be noted that the top four point-scorers in national competitions (Lockhart, Zemba, Monica Kinney, and Liz Murphy) all competed in multiple events, while Hixson’s 47 points all came from the pole vault.
Perhaps more astounding than anything written previously about Hixson is that she is equally as good in the classroom as she is in the pole vault. The senior finance major with a 3.97 cumulative grade point average was recently honored by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) with a very prestigious award. Hixson was named the 2013-14 Capital One Academic All-America of the Year for her academic and athletic performances, the same award she received in 2012-13.
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