Drake Relays Pole Vault In Mall; Olympic Gold Medalist Clay Competes In Drake Relays Decathlon
DES MOINES, IOWA -- The 103rd edition of the Drake Relays got underway Wednesday with events eight miles apart featuring America's best track and field performers.
Jenn Suhr, the 2008 Olympic silver medalist, narrowly missed setting an American indoor record in the women's pole vault for the fourth time in her career en route to winning the third annual Pole Vault in the Mall at the Jordan Creek Town Center in West Des Moines Wednesday evening at 15 feet 7 inches.
American indoor record holder Brad Walker captured the men's pole vault title, soaring 18-9 1/4.
Just hours earlier in the afternoon at Drake Stadium decathlete Bryan Clay took the first step toward defending his gold medal in the decathlon from the 2008 Olympics by competing in the first four events of the day before electing not to run in the final event - the 400-meter dash.
Heading into the final event, Clay led the decathlon field with 3,425 points but his absence in the 400 allowed Michigan State junior Kurt Schneider to take the first-day lead with 3,996 points. Peaches Roach-Findlay from Jamaica led the heptathlon with 3,611 points.
Suhr, ranked No. 1 in the world last year, was competing in the pole vault for the first time in two months after winning the U.S. Indoor championship Feb. 25.
She passed on each of the first three heights before making her second attempt with ease at 15-1 becoming the only woman to clear that height. Her winning mark was the best performance for a Drake Relays-related women's pole vault event.
The bar was then moved to 16-0 3/4, just past her latest American mark of 16-0 that she set at the New Balance meet in Boston, Mass., Feb. 4.
Each of Suhr’s last three attempts ended with her grazing the bar after her legs made it over.
“I wish I could have given the crowd one (American record) today,” Suhr said of the record. “But just the fact they were there and I was able to get some really good jumps at it, I’m not sorry at all.
“It was extremely fun,” Suhr said of her first Pole Vault in the Mall experience. “To come here and have the crowd be into it and appreciate it, with the tradition it carries, was something that I wanted to be a part of and I’m glad I was.
"I had heard it (environment) was electrifying, an amazing place to jump and the crowd was into it. But this was more than I could imagine..the music and the DJ,…they definitely had it right for this meet. It is nice to come out early in season and have a meet that is fun like this but you can really prepare for what the year brings."
Walker, making his second straight appearance here, also applauded the crowd of more 1,500 fans that assembled covering two levels in the mall.
“The environment here is phenomenal,” said Walker, who won the 2006 World Indoor Championships and 2007 World Outdoor Championships. "We have a lot of events inside stadiums which are fun, but the crowd is far away. This really adds a whole different dimension to it. I think people up watching up close get an understanding of the speed and what it takes to jump high so its great for all of us."
Walker, the 2012 U.S. indoor champion, cleared the winning height on his first try. His three attempts at 19-1¼ (5.83m) fell short.
"It was a really good jump (at 19-1 1/4) but the pole was too small. If I would have had a couple more attempts I would have gone up poles and I’d like to think I would have made the bar.”
After the event, Suhr, who has not committed to the Drake Relays stadium pole vault competition on Saturday, revealed she is considering making her 2012 outdoor debut then.
“There is a chance,” Suhr said. “I’m going to rest up and see how things go on Saturday.”
Two-time Olympian Derek Miles, who won the Pole Vault in the Mall titles in 2008 and 2011, finished second in the men's division, with a successful clearance of 18-0 1/2 on his first try before failing to clear 18-5 1/4.
Jordan Scott was third by clearing 18-0 1/2 on his second try, while Mark Hollis, the 2009 Pole Vault in the Mall champion and third-ranked U.S. vaulter, was fourth at the same height, clearing on his third attempt. Three-time NCAA champion Scott Roth was fifth (17-6 3/4) while Jeremy Scott, silver medalist at the 2011 Pan American Games, no-heighted in the competition.
Lacy Janson, who was fifth at the 2012 World Indoor Championships. was second in the women's division at 14 feet 9 inches, which she cleared on her first attempt before Defending champion Kylie Hutson finished third at 14-9 on her third try, while Mary Saxer was fourth (14-5 1/4). Becky Holliday was fifth and April Steiner-Bennett was sixth, clearing heights of 14-5 1/4 and 14-0, respectively.
MORE QUOTES FROM ATHLETES
American women's pole vault record holder Jenn Suhr: “At first, I was a little worried about the wall (of a balcony where fans gathered to watch beyond pit.). But you come down and you’re so into it, and the crowd gets you going. You could have anything there, you were going to jump.
"My goals were really to have fun with it because you never really have a chance at most meets because of the competition. I wanted to test out my long run because I haven't taken one since the Indoor nationals so it was good to open up my stride a little bit... it takes some concentration to be able to focus on what you have to do and today I felt on and my marks felt on so once your run feels on it it doesn't matter what is going on.
On preparing for Olympic Trials: "It's so early it doesn't really have any bearing yet..There is a lot of poker to play."
American men's pole vault record holder Brad Walker: “It’s really fun. I love coming out to this meet...I’ll come back every year if they keep having me.
Every jump over 5.72 (Olympic A ualifying standard) is a confidence builder. I'm actually on a short approach right now so it gives me more confidence on how high I can jump when I go back
"it's always about clearing your own personal best. For me I want to jump high at every meet I go to and I get my adernaline and motivation through raising heights...i'm always motivated out there.
Two-time Olympic pole vaulter Derrick Miles: "This is first time for my little shorter run (14 steps). I felt I should be able to jump 18-5 and take some good shots at 18-9 and I felt if I could do that I could be comfortable with that..I though the first attempt at 18-5 was the right run but I just didn't do things right at the takeoff and the next two I had runs all over the place. I just got too excited I feel if I could settle down and do the things right that I know I need to do I should be able to jump that without too much of a problem."
On preparing for his last Olympic Trials before retirement: "I feel comfortable. I'm running well. I feel strong. If I can stay healthy and get through the next two months in terms of time management between coaching and training I think we'll be in good shape."
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