LINCOLN — Falling to his back from more than 17 feet in the air, Christian Sanderfer suspiciously eyed the bar to see if it would betray him.
But as Nebraska’s sophomore pole vaulter landed safely on the cushion of the mat, the bar, which had been jostled slightly when Sanderfer passed over top of it, settled stubbornly into place.
Rising to greet the applause of the Devaney Center crowd with a single fist pump, the Husker sophomore had a career-best vault of 17 feet, 3ĺ inches, good enough to win the title at the Frank Sevigne Husker Invitational and move the Lincoln Southwest product to the No. 2 mark this season in the Big Ten.
“When I knew it was going to stay up,” Sanderfer said of the bar, “it was awesome.”
It was the second time Saturday he set a personal best in the event. Just minutes earlier, Sanderfer cleared 17-1ĺ on his final attempt at that height, besting his old mark of 17-ĺ. With the event title secured, he attempted to reach 17-7ĺ, but missed on all three attempts.
“I want to make it to indoor nationals, so that’s why I went for the 17-8 today, because that would put me in the top 10,” he said. “That’s the ultimate goal for the season.”
Shawnice Williams also found herself moving into Nebraska’s all-time charts by winning the women’s 600 meters in a personal-best time of 1:29.15, the third-best mark in school history and the second-fastest time in the Big Ten this year.
“I felt like I got out really good, I got out fast,” said Williams, a senior from Paramount, Calif. “I just tried to hold on to it for the second lap, and the third lap I got more aggressive. I had to kick again.”
It seemed a curious race for Williams to set such a fast time with her heat containing only two other runners. However, it was a lightning-fast trio with NU’s Ellie Grooters finishing second in 1:29.85 — the third-fastest time in the Big Ten this year — and Iowa’s Montayla Holder moving up to No. 4 in the conference with a time of 1:30.22.
“I was thinking that, that there were only two other girls,” Williams said. “But it was two other good girls, so it was a great race to be in, actually.”
Nebraska’s Connor Gibson may not have entered the men’s mile as the runner to watch, but all eyes were on the junior from Blair when he won the event in a career-best time of 4:04.05, beating his previous best mark by more than three seconds.
Gibson said he had targeted Saturday’s race for a career time after struggling with bronchitis earlier in the season.
“Today was one of those days I knew I was going to PR, I just didn’t know by how much,” Gibson said.
After running a 4:00.71 mile at New Mexico last weekend, Nebraska’s Trevor Vidlak appeared to be the runner to threaten the four-minute mark and set a Devaney Center collegiate record. But Vidlack gave up the lead to Gibson with two laps to go and finished fourth. NU’s Jacob Olson ended up third.
“Trevor didn’t have a great race today, but he’s been there all year,” Gibson said. “He’s kind of been my mentor and really good training partner. We’ve got a really good core group of guys.”
Other Huskers put up impressive marks on the weekend at a meet that featured nearly 1,000 competitors. Junior London Hawk set a personal-best time of 1:51.37 to lead Huskers to a 1-2 finish among collegians in the 800 followed by freshman Jacob Holtmeier from Lincoln Pius X.
Senior Patrick Raedler, the Big Ten leader in the long jump, remained unbeaten on the year with a winning leap of 24-9ľ on Friday. Also Friday, sophomore Cody Rush won the 400 in a personal-best 47.05, which is sixth-best all-time at Nebraska.
Junior Ellie Ewere remained second in the Big Ten in the triple jump Saturday with a PR of 41-11ľ. She finished first among college competitors behind only former Husker All-American Mara Griva, who competed unattached.