By Steve Holt, Sports Writer
Just two years after national champion Meredith Garner set a school record in the women’s pole vault, the nation and ACU have a new queen in the event.
At the Tyson Foods-Razorback Invitational in Fayetteville, Ark., Friday, junior Katie Eckley vaulted herself into the Wildcat annals, clearing 13 feet, 2 and one-half inches to place third and set a school and Division II record in the women’s pole vault. Eckley’s vault broke Garner’s national and school record, set only two seasons after Division II added pole vault to women’s competition.
“It was fantastic for her,” said head coach Jon Murray. “She looked good last week, she has jumped well in Arkansas in the past, so I felt like she was primed to do really well.”
With her performance, Eckley also vaulted to the top of the Division II performance list, ahead of North Dakota State’s Julie Strenkowski. Although Eckley was the only automatic qualifier for the ACU women, several other athletes posted exceptional marks at the Tyson Invitational and at the Missouri Southern Invitational Meet Friday and Saturday. Junior middle distance star and three-time national champion Bernard Manirakiza moved to the top of the performance list in the men’s mile, finishing third in the event at the Tyson Invitational. Manirakiza’s time of 4:03.17 was the third-best in ACU history.
Murray said he anticipated Manirakiza running very well in Arkansas.
“He’s looked very good in practice,” he said.
Murray added that the heavy Division I competition helped many athletes perform at a higher level.
“You’re racing against the best in the country, so you may not show [success] in placing, but you’re still running good times,” Murray said.
Freshman Vincent Morogah also qualified provisionally for the men in the 5,000 meters.
New provisional qualifiers on the women’s side included Stephanie Warren in the triple jump, Sofi Hildenborg in the 400-meter dash, Olha Kryv’yak in the mile and Jessica and Brooklyn Hung in the 60-meter dash and 400 meters, respectively.