ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- It took nearly three hours, but at the end of what seemed Friday’s pole vault marathon at the Albuquerque Convention Center, history had been re-written, in multiples.
Texas sophomore Kaitlin Petrillose set a NCAA Division I indoor championship record and a new collegiate record with her winning vault of 15-01 feet.“That’s normal and exhausting, yes,” she said of prolonged competition on the first day of the 2014 NCAA Division I Women’s Indoor Track and Field Championships.
South Dakota sophomore Emily Grove, who began the meet top-ranked, finished second. Akron sophomore Annika Roloff finished third.
But the day – evening, really – belonged to the No. 2-ranked Petrillose, a Round Rock, Texas, native. Longhorn supporters and teammates serenaded her with “NCAA champion!” chants immediately after she clenched her victory, and Texas head coach Mario Sategna noted the significance.
“We’re super-excited,” he said. “It’s one thing, you kind of see that – she could come in and win. But to break a record on top of it is icing on the cake.”
“I knew it was going to be a tough competition,” Petrillose said. “I knew that everybody there was going to compete, come to compete, and going to do as best as they could for themselves.”
In fact, she didn’t pressure herself by targeting victory or any particular placement.
“My main goal was to keep my composure and my endurance,” Petrillose said. “I wanted to be able to continue and jump higher bars and of course, get that collegiate record.”
A similar mantra was stressed during Texas’ team meeting earlier Friday.
“It’s not about the times or the heights or the distances,” Sategna said of what the Longhorns discussed, pre-meet. “It’s head-to-head. It’s about beating people. She knew who her main rivals were going to be coming in. But again, just can’t say enough. To win a title and have a record on top of it, we’re very blessed to have her on our team.”
As vaulting began and the bar inched up, Petrillose said she maintained her concentration on cresting heights on first attempts, to conserve energy for who-knew-what heights to come. Once she cleared 14-11 feet, she erased the existing NCAA Division I indoor meet record of 14-10.25, set by Arizona’s Amy Linnen in March 2002.
Then the bar crept higher and competition dwindled to Petrillose and Grove
“Every time I cleared that bar, I’d think, ‘second bar, first attempt,’” Petrillose said. “‘Third bar, first attempt.’ That’s why I didn’t want to set any goals. I wanted to make an accomplishment each time.”
She hit 15-01 feet on her second attempt. That gave her the top collegiate mark, bettering the 14-11, set by Arkansas’ Tina Sutej at the 2012 Southeastern Conference indoor championships.
Grove followed but missed her attempts, giving Petrillose the event victory.
The victor asked for the bar to be set at 15-05.50 feet and missed all three attempts, but doing so was another entry in her experience bank.
“I didn’t have much gas, but enough gas to get down the runway,” Petrillose said. “The experience and the atmosphere were great and I can keep those bars in sight for something down the road.”
Already Texas’ record-holder indoors and outdoors, she also is the two-time and reigning Big 12 indoor champion and the 2013 Big 12 outdoor champion.
“It’s amazing,” Petrillose said after her record-setting victory. “I feel great. I thank my family and my friends. I especially thank my teammates for supporting me and cheering me and that brings out the best in me.”
“I think we’re seeing some of the next up-and-coming pole vaulters who are going to represent the United States,” Sategna said. “So it was good. What a great day for day one of the competition.”