March 13, 2010

By John Oehser, Special to NCAA.com

GREENCASTLE, Ind. -- Anna Heim's goal was simple Saturday.

All the senior from Moravian College (Pa.) wanted was to finish a spot better than she had at her last two national meets.

On her mind at the Division III Indoor Track and Field Meet at DePauw University's Hollensteiner Track on Saturday wasn't setting season bests and meet records, breaking barriers or even being part of pushing her event - the women's pole vault - to a new level at the Division III level.

All those things were a bonus.

"I really just wanted to win," Heim said.

Mission accomplished - in satisfying, historic fashion.

Heim, who finished second in the Division III indoor meet last year when she tied for first and lost a tiebreaker, cleared the bar on Saturday at 4.16 meters - 13-feet, 7¾ inches - finishing nearly a foot ahead of four vaulters who tied at 3.86 meters (12-8).

The 13-7 ¾ was not only a Division III indoor season best, it established a new meet record.

Heim, who also finished second at last year's outdoor national meet, finished ahead of a group that included not only Widener University (Wilmington, Del.) sophomore and runner-up Abby Schaffer, but senior third-place finisher Hayley Suckow of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and fourth-place finisher Rachel Secrest, a senior at North Central (Naperville, Ill.) who won last season's national indoor title because she cleared her first vault at 3.86 meters (12-8) when Heim did not.

"There was energy all over the vault runway and everything," Secrest said. "You could totally feel it. Everybody came to do their best and to push this event to the limits it's never been to before, places it's never been to before.

"Everybody fought really hard and did what they had to do. That's how sports get better. That's how every event gets better, by. It's really a very exciting thing."

The fifth-place finisher, sophomore Catherine Street of Linfield College (McMinnville, Ore.) also finished at 3.86 meters Saturday (12-8).

"I knew it was going to be hard, because I knew Rachel and Anna were doing really well throughout the season," Schaffer said. "Them, and a bunch of others, are helping to push the D-III standard of pole vaulting up to a different level."

Secrest, like Heim, entered the meet with a qualifying vault better than the former NCAA Division III meet record. She had vaulted 13-2 ¼ this season and Heim entered with a qualifying vault of 13-5¼.

Nicole Hope of Ohio Northern (Ada, Ohio) and Street also entered with qualifying vaults better than last year's winning vault.

Whereas last season she lost because she did not clear her first vault at 3.86 meters, Heim this season left nothing to chance. While the four vaulters behind her could not clear 3.96 meters, she not only cleared that on her first jump, she also cleared 4.06 meters and 4.16 meters.

She became the first female Division III vaulter to clear four meters.

"I came in a little nervous," Heim said. "The national meet always scares me a lot. Last night, I didn't get much sleep. I always come in just hoping to clear this bar, clear the next bar. I don't even like to know what height it's at, so at 13-7, I didn't know what it was."

What it was was not only history, but another step in an event that continues to evolve.

"We're taking it to a whole new level," Secrest said. "There are going to be so many good things to come over the years. It's been great to be a part of that starting point of pushing it to new boundaries and I can't wait until outdoor to do it again."

Also in the Division III field events Saturday:

  • Senior Nikki Hay of Springfield (Mass.) College won the triple jump with an Division III season best of 11.98 meters (39-3¾). The fifth-place finisher a season ago, Hay won the event with her fifth jump, but said her approach changed early when she decided to stop favoring a knee injury that bothered her throughout the season. "I was scared to jump off it," she said. "I think on my second jump, I said, 'You know what? It's your last meet, senior year. Forget the knee.' ''
  • St. Olaf (Northfield, Minn.) senior John Schantzen won the men's shot put at 17.37 meters (57 feet).
  • St. Lawrence (Canton, N.Y.) senior Alyssa Pirinelli won the women's shot put at 14.63 meters (48 feet).
  • Junior Chrys Jones of Centre College (Danville, Ky.) won the men's triple jump at 15.02 meters (49 feet, 3-½ inches).
  • Junior Dillon Binkley of Illinois College (Jacksonville, Ill.) won the men's high jump at 2.08 meters (6-9¾).