COLLEGE STATION, Texas—South Dakota freshman pole vaulter Chris Nilsen captured a national title with a clearance of 18 feet, 8 1/4 inches, at the NCAA Indoor Championships at Gilliam Indoor Stadium.
Nilsen, a freshman from Kansas City, Mo., becomes South Dakota's second NCAA Division I champion, joining alumna Bethany (Buell) Firsick who won the outdoor pole vault in 2013. Nilsen captured the title when he cleared 18-4 ½ on his second attempt. He then went on to tie his personal best height, which he had previously made at the Tyson Invitational in February.
After clearing 18-8 ¼, Nilsen took three attempts at 19-0 3/4, which would have broken the World Under-20 record. He currently holds the American Under-20 indoor record.
Nilsen won every meet he competed in during his freshman indoor season, including Summit League and NCAA titles.
South Dakota had five NCAA Division II Indoor Champions in addition to Sam Pribyl's lone outdoor title in the pole vault. Combined, the Coyotes now have seven men's NCAA Champions.
Freshman Samara Spencer of Spanish Town, Jamaica, also competed at the NCAA Championships Friday. She finished 16th in the long jump in 18-2 1/2 to earn second-team all-America honors.