Olympic medalists, NCAA champions and high school stars from eight states will participate in the Capitol District Pole Vault event Aug. 1 in Omaha.
Sandi Morris, the women’s silver medalist at the 2016 Rio Olympics, and Sam Kendricks, who won bronze in the men’s competition, are the top-seeded vaulters for the inaugural Omaha competition.
Street vaults — pole vault competitions not conducted at traditional track venues — have been popular for decades in Europe and major meets in the U.S., like the Kansas Relays. The runway will go west to east between 10th and 12th Streets parallel to Capitol Avenue toward the Marriott Hotel, where visitors can watch the event from their balconies — as can Capitol District residents.
The high school events earlier in the day also will feature some of the top vaulters from around the country.
The men’s elite division currently has five participants, and a sixth is expected to be added later. In addition to Kendricks, who has a career-best mark of 19 feet, 6 inches, two other vaulters also have cleared 19 feet. Scott Houston and Matt Ludwig have both cleared 19-1.
Houston is the 2018 U.S. indoor champion and Ludwig won the 2017 NCAA outdoor title. Cole Walsh (18-8) and Tray Oates (18-5) are the other participants.
Morris leads the women’s field with a career-best 16-4. Four of the other seven competitors have personal bests better than 15 feet, led by 2019 NCAA indoor champion Lexi Jacobus of Arkansas, who has an outdoor best of 15-5.
Emily Grove and Kortney Ross — who finished third and fourth, respectively, at the 2019 Drake Relays — both cleared 15-1, as has 2019 NCAA outdoor champion Tori Hoggard.
Bonnie Draxler and Chloe Cunliffe round out the women’s elite division field. Draxler finished second at the 2019 NCAA outdoor meet while Cunliffe is the nation’s top-ranked high school vaulter.
All of the men’s and women’s competitors, except for Cunliffe, will be competing in the USATF national championships at Drake Stadium less than a week before the Omaha event.
Four of the seven high school boys vaulters won state championships in the spring. Gothenburg’s Tyce Hruza is the top qualifier with his personal best of 16-7¼.
Seward’s Chase Berry, who finished second to Hruza for the all-class gold medal in May, is seeded fourth at 16-1.
Lianne Kistler of Ballard (Washington) is the top seed in the girls high school competition. Her career-best 14-1 is the national record for high school sophomores.
Lincoln Lutheran graduate and Nebraska state champion Josie Puelz cleared 12-9 to win one of her four gold medals. Hannah Preissler, the Class D state champion from Giltner, is also in the event, which is free to the public.
The Omaha Sports Commission, which is sponsoring the event, is partnering with the Open Door Mission on a food drive. People are invited to bring a nonperishable food item in lieu of paying for a ticket.
The Nebraska 100: Our greatest athletes
The Nebraska 100, originally selected in 2005 and then updated and re-ranked in 2015, came from a pool of nearly 500 names from the ranks of high school, college, amateur and professional sports from the past 140 years. Assistance came from a panel of veteran sports observers from across the state, with the newspaper's sports staff determining the final rankings.