Nebraska's Willer ties for national lead in pole vault

Sunday, April 19, 2009

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- After competing in the hammer throw and 5,000-meter run on Friday, the Nebraska track and field team returned to John McDonnell Field on Saturday morning for the second and final day of the John McDonnell Invitational.

The Huskers battled through cold and rainy conditions early, including a 90-minute rain delay that started at roughly 2:35 p.m., before the sun came out and the rain subdued for the late afternoon and evening events.

Over two days, the men and women combined to produce 37 regional-qualifying marks, highlighted by sophomore Natalie Willer tying for the national lead in the women's pole vault.

In one of the more interesting stories on Saturday, the women's pole vault was moved indoors to the Randal Tyson Track Center due to the heavy rain.

Willer and Arkansas' Katie Stripling both posted a nation-leading vault of 14-3 1/4, topping the previous-leading mark of 14-1 1/4, held by three different vaulters.

For regional-qualifying purposes, the NCAA permits meet officials to move the pole vault and high jump to an indoor facility for safety reasons.

Willer, a native of Elkhorn, was clean through her first four bars, 12-7 1/2, 13-1 1/2, 13-6 1/4 and 13-11, before taking all three attempts to clear 14-3 1/4. Willer and Stripling then both attacked 14-5 1/4, but neither was able to clear. Overall, Willer finished second to Stripling, with the Razorback vaulter clearing 14-3 1/4 on one less attempt. Even though the vault was recorded during the outdoor season, Willer's vault breaks her own indoor school record of 14-0, set on Jan. 24, 2009 at the Conference Challenge in Lincoln.

Right before the rain delay, junior Epley Bullock was able to fight through the elements and match her season-best jump of 5-8 3/4 to win the women's high jump.

The three-time All-American was the only jumper in the field to clear the regional-qualifying standard of 5-8 3/4.

Following the delay, Nicholas Gordon Scott Jorgenson, LeRon Williams and Chris Phipps finished 2-5-8-9 in the long jump, with all four clearing the regional standard of 24-1. Both Gordon and Jorgenson improved their regional standing, as Gordon cleared 25-6 3/4 and Jorgenson 25-2 3/4, with each jump a wind-aided mark.

David Adams and Rachel Carrizales each dominated their race in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. First, Carrizales won with a time of 10:27.99, nearly seven seconds ahead of Marquette's Jayne Grebinski, who ran 10:34.15.

A native of Morrill, Neb., Carrizales has previously run faster this season, with a time of 10:09.69 at the Stanford Invitational to rank fourth in D-I. Adams followed with a personal-best winning time of 8:47.07, improving his national standing one spot from fifth to fourth. Adams was directly followed by teammate Brian Parr who ran a regional-qualifying time of 9:06.19, giving the Husker men three steeplechasers qualified for the regional meet, as Kyle Custer qualified last weekend.

Kirkland Thornton, Lehann Fourie, Tyrell Ross and Eric Lund all competed in the 110-meter hurdle final, with Thornton improving on his previous best from the prelims, running a +2.1 m/s wind-aided time of 13.62 to finish runner-up. Fourie finished third with a time of 13.73, while Ross came in fifth at 13.97 and Lund in sixth with a wind-aided best of 14.17.

The Husker men now have three 110 hurdlers in the D-I top 15, with Fourie No. 3, Thornton No. 5 and Ross No. 11.

Thornton then led a 1-3-4 Husker finish in the 400-meter hurdles, with all three running below the regional-qualifying standard of 52.21.

Thornton took top honors with a time of 50.94, followed by Fourie in third at 51.63 and Cylend Simmons in fourth with a personal-best time of 51.92. With Simmons adding a regional mark, the Husker men now have seven 400-meter hurdles qualified for the regional meet.

In the shot put, Trey Jordan took top honors on the men's side with a personal-best regional-qualifying throw of 60-0 1/4, the first time the Troy, Texas, native has cleared 60 feet in the shot. With the throw, Jordan moves from No. 17 in D-I to No. 11.

On the women's side, Kacie Sharp cleared the regional standard of 46-11 for the fourth time this season, finishing runner-up with a toss of 49-7 1/4.

In the women's triple jump Leandra McGruder and Tara Korshoj finished second and third, respectively, with Korshoj reaching the first regional-qualifying jump of her career. McGruder's mark of 41-6 1/4 was short of her previous-best jump of 42-0 1/2, while Korshoj cleared a personal-best mark of 41-2 1/4.

Seth Burney matched his personal best in the pole vault with a leap of 17-0 3/4 to win the men's contest. Burney stays tied for 18th in D-I with eight other vaulters.

Austin Braman added his name to the regional-qualifying list in the men's javelin with a toss of 208-9, placing him third at the meet. Ryan Petrocchi came in right behind Braman with a toss of 206-11, marking the second straight meet that Petrocchi has thrown over 200 feet.

The Huskers ended the meet with the top men's 4x400-meter relay, posting a regional-qualifying time of 3:07.70. Dale Ervin, Cylend Simmons, Dan Christensen and Lukas Hulett combined to run the No. 17 time in D-I this season, as the Husker men have now qualified in both relays.

The Huskers will be back on the road next weekend at three different meets. On Thursday through, the Huskers will be at the Drake Relays in Des Moines, Iowa, and the Penn Relays in Philadelphia, Pa., while also competing at the UCSD Triton Invitational in San Diego, Calif., on Saturday. Check later this week for more information.

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