Driver leads Big Ten Conference in pole vault

Life is pretty good right now for Craig Driver.

The senior pole vaulter on the Nebraska track team got accepted to graduate school to become a pharmacist. That was a huge relief, and something he’d been working toward for about four years.

Two weeks ago, Driver had a career-best vault of 17 feet, 5 inches. That put him No. 10 in school history.

Going into the Big Ten Indoor Championships this weekend in Geneva, Ohio, Driver leads the Big Ten in the pole vault. He’s been ranked as high as 16th in the nation this indoor season.

And Driver is one of the team captains for the Huskers, which he said is a thrill, having grown up in Minden.

“It’s a huge honor to be a two-year team captain, because there are a lot of fine athletes who come through here,” Driver said. “To be considered one of the leaders of the crew, that means a lot to me. Especially because I’m a Nebraska native and small-town kid just doing his thing here in Lincoln.”

The Husker men will try to repeat as Big Ten indoor champions, expected to score a lot of points in the pole vault, the hurdles, with Oladapo Akinmoladun and Antoine Lloyd, and the 4×400 relay. The Huskers could get some momentum with the pole vault being held Friday morning.

Driver cleared 17-5 to win at the Tyson Invitational in Arkansas. It was about the fifth meet he’d attempted 17-5.

“It was pretty dang exciting,” Driver said. “You can ask my coach, or anyone in the stands how excited I was. It was a heck of a day. Those are one of the days when you’re done and you’re like, ‘OK, that was a good day.’”

Driver placed eighth at the Big Ten indoor meet his first two seasons, and fourth last year. He’s hoping for another top finish and vault that will get him qualified for the NCAA meet. The top 16 vaulters make nationals, and Driver thinks if he can go 17-9, he’d have a great chance to get in.

Nebraska has four pole vaulters on its Big Ten meet roster, with Beau Simmons, Tyler Loontjer and Steven Cahoy joining Driver. Cahoy had been injured and was considering a redshirt season, but will make his return in hopes of helping the Huskers have a top finish.

Driver experienced a similar situation, with his redshirt being pulled during the outdoor season as a freshman when it was determined he could help the team score points.

The pressure goes up at the conference meet, Driver said.

“To say that it doesn’t affect you would be a total lie, and anyone would tell you the same,” Driver said. “With me, I’m a fifth-year senior. They pulled my redshirt my freshman year, so I’ve been doing this for five years, and I’ve definitely matured through the years to where I don’t go into the meet scared like I used to. I’m kind of just going into it ready to win and compete.”

Driver spends about nine months out of the year vaulting, and even in the offseason is still training. But he’s enjoyed himself.

“It’s a long season, but one of the cool things is, I guess you could say I picked the right sport,” Driver said. “I don’t really get sick of it. Sometimes in high school some of the sports drag on, but I’m lucky where this sport I still enjoy it after five years.”



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