Petrillose sets NCAA record in winning pole vault at national indoor meet

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Kaitlin Petrillose capped off her second indoor season as a Texas Longhorn Friday with one of the finest performances in NCAA history.

The sophomore, who entered the meet with the top six indoor pole vault marks on UT record, claimed the first women’s title in the event in school history by clearing a meet- and collegiate-record 15 feet, 1 inch (4.60m) on the opening day of the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships at the Albuquerque Convention Center.

Two weeks removed from claiming a league record third-straight Big 12 pole vault title, Petrillose was one of the favorites at nationals, entering the meet as the No. 2 seed after posting a then school-record clearance of 14-7 1/4 (4.45m) at the same venue during last month’s New Mexico Collegiate Classic.

“I knew it was a tough competition. Everybody had to at least be over 14 feet to get in here,” said Petrilllose. “I knew everybody there was to compete. My main goal was to keep my composure and my endurance, of course. I wanted to be able to continue on to jump higher bars.”

Not only did Petrilllose break the indoor record of Arkansas’ Tina Sutej (14-11/4.55m at the 2012 SEC Championships), but became one of just four collegiate women to ever clear 15 feet at either an indoor or outdoor collegiate meet. Sutej also has the outdoor record of 15-1 1/2 (4.61m).

“It’s amazing,” Petrillose said. “I feel great. I thank my family and friends, and especially my teammates for being there supporting me tonight. That brought out the best in me.”

Petrillose’s performance was not the only positive one for the fifth-ranked Texas women as four of their other five entries in sprint events advanced to Saturday’s finals, including all three in the 400 meters.

The Longhorns had three of the four fastest times in the semifinal, led by sophomore Courtney Okolo who was second with a time of 52.04 seconds. Ashley Spencer, the two-time defending NCAA champion in the outdoor 400 and the No. 1 seed in this event, clocked a 52.12, while freshman Kendall Baisden had a personal-best 52.22.

Sophomore Morolake Akinosun was fifth in the 60-meter semifinal by posting a time of 7.24. She had also qualified in the 200, but recorded a time of 23.78 and did not advance to the final, which was held late Friday evening. Akinosun was the 16th seed in the 200, but was sixth in the 60.

“We knew we had a good chance to get Ashley and Courtney there, but to get Kendall to the final as a true freshman was huge,” head coach Mario Sategna said. “We knew it was going to be tough to get Morolake to advance in the 200, but she closed well in the 60.”

The 25th-ranked Texas men also had a pair of entries in Friday’s running semifinals with sophomore Zack Bilderback in the 400 meters and freshman Senoj-Jay Givans in the 60.

Bilberback, who won the 400-meter Big 12 title two weeks ago, clocked a time of 46.96 in the 400 semifinal. Despite his time placing Bilderback fourth in his heat and 15th overall, he will advance to Saturday’s final. After video review due to a protest, meet officials determined that James Harris of Florida State impeded Bilderback’s progress at the end of the first lap. So both will advance to the final.

Givans was not able to duplicate his effort of two weeks ago when he won the 60-meter Big 12 title in 6.64. He clocked a 6.71 in the semifinal, which was 15th overall.

“For Senoj-Jay, it’s a stepping stone process,” Sategna said. “To make it to the national meet as a true freshman is something he can draw on down the road. He’s had a great indoor season and he’ll be raring to go for the outdoor season.”

Petrillose’s win gives the Longhorns 10 points which leaves them tied for seventh with four other schools in the team standings. Stanford leads the women’s standings with 22 points. Florida is second with 19.

After clearing her first four heights on her first attempt, Petrillose was nearly knocked out when the bar reached her school-record height of 14-7 1/4 (4.45m). She needed three tries to clear that height, but cruised after that. She made the next two bars – 14-9 (4.50m) and 14-11 (4.55) – on her first try, matching Sutej’s mark on the second. Petrillose also snapped the NCAA indoor meet record of 14-10 1/4 (4.53) set by Amy Linnen in 2002.

Emily Grove of South Dakota, meanwhile, the No. 1 seed in the event was trying to keep pace. She once missed at 14-9 (4.50m) and then passed to 15-1 (4.60) once Petrillose cleared 14-11. But Grove missed twice at 15-1 and Petrillose had the Longhorns first NCAA indoor title since 2009 (Destinee Hooker in high jump). Petrillose went on to attempt 15-5 1/2 (4.71m), but barely missed all three tries. A clearance at that height would have tied her for sixth on the all-time U.S. indoor performers list, according to Track and Field News. Her record clearance is still 10th on the all-time U.S. performers list.

“I can’t say enough, not only for Kaitlin, but (field events coach) Ty Sevin and (volunteer assistant) Brian Elmore who has worked with Kaitlin for a number of years,” Sategna said. “We are super excited. It’s one thing to come in and win, but then to break a record is icing on the cake.”

Along with entries in the 60 and 400 finals, the Longhorn have scoring opportunities Saturday in both the 4×400-meter relay and high jump. They have the No. 1-seeded 4×400 and senior Shanay Briscoe is a four-time All-American in the high jump.

The men will trot out the nation’s No. 1-ranked performer in the shot put. Ryan Crouser had a school-record toss of 69 feet, 8 inches (21.23m) at last month’s New Mexico Collegiate Classic and is the favorite in the event.

Saturday’s action gets underway at noon central with the multi-events. Field events start at 4:30 and running events at 7 p.m. ESPN3 will begin streaming live at 6:50 p.m. A tape delay of the championship will air Saturday, March 22 at 5:30 p.m. on ESPNU.

Longhorn Notes:
• Kaitlin Petrillose claimed the 35th individual women’s NCAA indoor title in school history and first in the pole vault (either indoor or outdoor). She was also the first women to earn a first team All-America honor (score at nationals) in the event at either indoors or outdoors. This was Petrillose’s third appearance at an NCAA meet. She finished tied for 10th at the 2013 NCAA Indoor Championships with a clearance of 13-5 1/4 (4.10m) and then tied for 13th at last year’s NCAA Outdoor meet, clearing 13-7 1/4 (4.15m).
• Petrillose has posted the top seven indoor pole vault marks in school history, including five this season. She improved a UT record this season that she originally set at the 2013 Leonard Hilton Invitational. At the New Mexico Collegiate Classic (Feb. 8), she vaulted a school record 14-7 1/4 (4.45m).
• With Courtney Okolo, Ashley Spencer and Kendall Baisden all in Saturday’s 400-meter final, the Longhorns should have three athletes score in one event for just the second time at the NCAA Indoor Championships.  Nanceen Perry, Suziann Reid and LaKeisha Backus finished second, third and seventh, respectively in the 200 meters at the 1999 NCAA Indoor meet, helping the Longhorns claim the national title. It has occurred four times at NCAA Outdoors (1991 – 100 meters; 1996 – 400 meters; 2003 – 400m hurdles; 2004 – 100m hurdles).

Albuquerque, N.M. • Albuquerque Convention Center • All times Central

Friday, March 14

• 60 Meters – Semifinal: 5. Morolake Akinosun, 7.24Q
• 200 Meters – Semifinal: 14. Morolake Akinosun, 23.78
• 400 Meters – Semifinal: 2. Courtney Okolo, 52.04Q; 3. Ashley Spencer, 52.12Q; 4. Kendall Baisden, 52.22Q
• Pole Vault: 1. Kaitlin Petrillose, 15-1 (4.60m)

• 60 Meters – Semifinal: 15. Senoj-Jay Givans, 6.71
• 400 Meters – Semifinal: 15. Zack Bilderback, 46.96#

Q – qualified for final
# – advanced to the final after protest upheld

Saturday, March 15

• High Jump (4:30 p.m.): Shanay Briscoe
• 400 Meters – Final (7:50 p.m.): Courtney Okolo, Ashley Spencer, Kendall Baisden
• 60 Meters – Final (8:10 p.m.): Morolake Akinosun
• 4×400-Meter Relay (9:20 p.m.): Kendall Baisden, Briana Nelson, Courtney Okolo, Ashley Spencer

• Shot Put (4:30 p.m.): Ryan Crouser
• 400 Meters – Final (7:40 p.m.): Zack Bilderback



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