It took an NCAA record to beat Emily Grove on Friday night in Albuquerque, N.M., and her teammate Bethany (Buell) Firsick was right behind her.
No national title in the pole vault this time for the University of South Dakota but the Coyotes can still mark this down as a win, because two athletes claiming top-5 finishes does not regularly occur.
“I think we’ve made a statement,” USD women’s track coach Lucky Huber said. “It’s like: wow, we get second and fourth in the nation in the pole vault and we’re a little disappointed? No way. We are so happy with the way these girls jumped here.”
Reigning national outdoor champion Firsick went 14 feet, 5.25 inches to finish fourth in her last indoor national college meet and Grove hung in there right to the end, going 14-7.25. Kaitlin Petrillose, a sophomore at Texas, successfully vaulted 15-1 to set a collegiate and NCAA national meet record.
“She had a great jump at a height that would have won it,” Huber said of Grove. “For someone to have to set a record to beat you is saying something about how you competed.”
The junior had a pair of attempts at 15-1 after passing on 14-9 after one miss and then passing on 14-11 without an attempt. She only missed twice before 14-9, missing once at 13-5.25 and at 14-7.25. Firsick cleared both 14-1.25 and 14-3.25 on third attempts and 14-5.25 on her second attempt before missing all attempts at 14-7.25.
Grove, a Pontiac, Ill., native, made an impressive attempt at 15-1 according to USD pole vault coach Derek Miles, who posted that she had it cleared “by four inches”.
“My first of my two attempts at it felt really good,” Grove said. “I basically came down on the bar. I was happy I got some looks at it, though. Next time I see it I’ll have a little more experience going for me.”
This was the third time Firsick and Grove shared All-America honors by finishing in the top eight at a national NCAA meet with both establishing a history of doing something at or near their best when the stakes – and the bars – are higher. No other school had two All-Americans at the meet. Arkansas had a vaulter who finished third and another who was tenth.
“Derek has got us both focusing on our technique in competitions very well,” Grove said. “You can’t let anything else get in your head and I think both Bethany I did pretty well with that. It’s definitely cool when you have a teammate in the same competition – when you’re competing with someone you also train with, you’re a little more comfortable. You know the other is rooting for you.”
Grove will redshirt this outdoor season. Her next big meet will be at the U.S.A. Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Sacramento, Calif., in late June.
So the now three-time All-American can relax and take it easy until then, right?
“It’s going to give me an opportunity go back into a training cycle where I will be working a little harder,” she said. “I’ll be spending my time at the DakotaDome. I love that place.”
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