Nebraska adds to all-time title haul
Willer ends home career in style with school-record pole vault
LINCOLN, Neb. – Nebraska capped its final Big 12 Indoor Championships in style with a commanding 115.5-101 win against four-time defending champion Texas A&M.
The Huskers produced four individual titles during the two-day meet, including a pair of wins in the long and triple jumps from freshman Mara Griva. The NU women now hold a conference-best six indoor crowns after their first team win since 2005, when they won a second consecutive title.
The win also adds to the historic 31-year resume of coach Gary Pepin, who now holds 67 conference titles dating back to his first Big Eight win at the 1981 indoor meet. As a member of the Big 12 Conference, Pepin’s program has captured a league-best 23 track and field titles, which also makes him the second-winningest coach in Big 12 history across all sports. Pepin trails Colorado’s Mark Wetmore, who has 24 conference titles as the head coach of the Buffs’ men’s and women’s cross country and track and field programs.
“This was a great effort; it took all our women to win this,” Pepin said. “Winning this here at [home at] the Devaney Center was special, especially for our seniors.”
After upsetting defending long jump champion Chantel Malone on Friday night, Griva made her first Big 12 Championships even more memorable on Saturday with a win in the triple jump.
Griva started the day by nearly matching her previous best of 42-8 1/4 with a leap of 42-8 in the preliminaries. The NU newcomer then made her presence known right away in the finals with a jump of 43-3 3/4 on her first attempt. The mark would hold up over the next two rounds of jumping, earning Griva the Huskers’ first sweep of the horizontal jumps since fellow Latvian Ineta Radevica won both titles in 2004.
Griva’s win also marked the second consecutive win in the triple jump for the Huskers after Leandra McGruder took the title last year at Iowa State with jump of 43-0 1/4.
Natalie Willer was the last Husker to win a Big 12 title on Saturday, as she won the pole vault crown in record-setting style. The senior co-captain not only won her second career indoor title, but she broke her own NU record and took back the conference meet record after Texas Tech’s Shade Weygandt set the record last year with a vault of 14-2 1/4. Willer had previously set the record in 2009 with her vault of 13-10.
Willer entered the meet at 13-2 1/4 after passing at the first four heights and cleared the bar on her second attempt. She then posted back-to-back first-attempt makes at 13-6 1/4 and 13-10, which then left only Willer and Weygandt in the field going after 14-0. Willer cleared the bar on her third attempt, while Weygandt failed to defend her title with three misses.
Willer then passed at 14-2 and moved the bar up to 14-4. It took the Elkhorn, Neb., native three tries, but she was able to clear the bar and break her own school record for the second time this season.