IN THE EVENT where competitors rocket themselves over crossbars off long sticks, the U.S. women’s picture from the head of the metaphorical runway to the Tokyo Olympics looks something like a tale of three stately trees in the forest.
there’s jenn suhr, the eternal sequoia; sandi morris, the most robust American oak in recent times; and katie nageotte, the… any rangers reading this? let’s go with the hybrid poplar, which according to the arbor day foundation grows 5 to 8 feet per year.
Reading: Women’s pole vault olympic trials
all three are family names. Suhr is an Olympic gold medalist, a two-time medalist, now 38. Morris is the world indoor champion and silver medalist in the last 3 outdoor majors: Rio ’16, London ’17, Doha ’19. Nageotte, with her clearance of 15-5 (4.70) for =7 at Doha in 2019, is the best American high-flyer in history at a Worlds or Olympics, except for Morris and Suhr.
they, not coincidentally, are the top 3 Americans on the all-time world list at 2nd, 3rd & amp; 6, and the only u.s. Vaulters so far above 16-0 (4.88), as well as the metric barrier of 4.90.
any other jumpers looking to join team usa. uu. for the games you must beat at least one of them in the final of the Olympic tests.
The fun news, though a pandemic has marred the lead up in many ways, is that a larger than ever corps of challengers is getting up to take their shots. there is plenty of evidence, but a simple comparison says a lot. the 2015 season that followed the last saw 6 Americans go 15-1 (4.60) or better. by contrast, the 2019 pre-Olympic season saw 8 at that altitude. in fact, 9 if you count lexi jacobus, who has already retired. and on the 20th, although it was a lousy year of competition, he registered 7.
since the end of january, u.s.a. claims a total of 13 active vaulters (see chart) who at some point in their career have climbed the ot rating height.
a summary of the field:
the trio of more than 4.90
sandi morris, 28 years old, 5-8½/143 (1.74/65). No. 3 on the all-time world list at 16-4¾ (5.00). world indoor champion, silver medalist at the olympic games in rio & world champions ’17 & ’19. United States Champion 2017-19; 2nd 2014-16. five-time world qualifier 2015-19 (7, 1, 2, 1, 2). t&fn podium 2020 “gold medalist”. trainer: bryan compton.
jenn suhr, 38, 5-10¾/141 (1.80/64). No. 2 world all-time at 16-6 (5.03i) from ’16. 2012 olympic champion, silver medalist ’08, 7th in rio. indoor world champion ’16. Outdoor World Rankings: 10th ’07, 4th ’11, 2nd ’13, =4th ’15, dnq ’17, =7th ’19. 17 times champion of usa uu. in & outside. 9 times no. 1 ranked ranker dollar each year 2006-19. 11 times world ranked 2006-18 (6-’06, 8-’07, 2-’08, 8-’09, 1-’11, 1-’12, 3-’13, 3-’14, 4 – ’15, 3-’16, 4-’18). coach: rick suhr.
katie nageotte, 29, 5-6/135 (1.67/61). No. 6 all-time world at 16-1¾ (4.92) since ’20. 5th indoor world champions ’18, = 7th world champions ’19. usa champion standings USA: 6th ’13, 4th ’15, 7th ’17, 2nd ’18, 2nd ’19. U.S. 2014-19 rankings: 7, 6, 7, 2, 3, 2. 2017-19 world rankings: 6, 4, 7. Coach: Brad Walker. (continued below)
the crowd of 15-5 and over
The bar’s height of 15-5 (4.70 metric) sets a line in the sky that jumpers must be above, or indeed close to, to realistically compete for spots in Tokyo. that configuration is the olympic qualifying standard and in the 2016 and 2019 usatf champions it was required to exceed it to place in the top 3. one or more of the trio 4.90 from the plane to tokyo.
kristen brown, 28th nageotte’s training partner and =6th in ’19 usatf, the san diego state (and virginia tech) alum went up 15-5 a few weeks before the ’16 trials, where she placed eighth at 14-9 (4.50).
“She’s dealt with some injuries, but she’s 4.70,” Nageotte says, “and I mean, she looks great.”
olivia gruver, 23, 5-9/150 (1.75/68). The two-time NCAA champion for Kentucky transferred to Washington in 2019 and at the Stanford Invitational that year he cleared 15-6¼ (5.73). With that jump, she surpassed Morris as the tallest outdoor collegiate jumper in history and moved on to No. 8 all time usa uu. in ’20 she usatf indoor she hit 15-5 (4.70) for the 3rd. she opened the 2021 season as a wild card in her alma mater’s January in-house competition with 15-1 (4.60).
“I’m very focused on just jumping high,” says Gruver, “and I think once I can do that and get a chance to do that, I hope something will come of it.”
emily grove, 27. ranked fourth in the 2019 usatf champions, raising her career best to 15-3 (4.65). The following week, she raised that PR to 15-5 (4.70) to meet the Tokyo Olympics standard. She placed 6th in the 2012 Junior Worlds as a daughter of South Dakota, and Hers = 3rd place in the 2017 USATF earned the Illinois native a World Championship berth that year. a 4-time u.s. ranker, its high from no. 4 arrived in 2019.
“I think 2021 is super exciting just because of the opportunity,” Grove says. “There is an opportunity for all of us vaulters who have been working so hard for so long to show us what we can do. I think the girls are going to jump very high.”
Morgann LeLeux, 28, Our HS Girls AOY in ’11, she hit her collegiate stride as a Louisiana-Lafayette senior in ’16, tieing for 2nd at the NCAA and notching a 15-1 (4.60) PR to place 4th at the Olympic Trials.
“When I made my attempt at 4.60, I thought for sure it would be my day,” he told the Acadiana defender. “I thought I had enough height for 4.65 [15-3], but it just didn’t happen. I had the height [on his third attempt] but I went to the bar because it was too deep.
“I began to realize the opportunities I had,” he added. “I really thought it was my time. it was a very good feeling. I have definitely come a long way. I will definitely continue working and not give up on my dream. I’ll be back in 4 years.”
make it 5 years because of c19. Certainly in Year 4 she seemed to be on her way, going 15-5 indoors in her last meeting of 2020 before the pandemic shutdown. she tied for fifth in the ’20 usatf indoor.
watch out for these flippers
rachel baxter, 21. shot 14-5½ (4.41) as a california high schooler to win the 2017 junior panamanian title. now a virginia tech junior and the top american college jumper ever returns, won last February with 14-10¼ (a) (4.53).
megan clark, 26. training partner of sandi morris and winner over nageotte in the first atl meeting this year. Ella’s best 15-2¼ (4.63) Ella dates from 2016. As a senior Duke that season, Clark ranked second in the NCAA Indoor, fifth in the NCS Outdoor and sixth in the OT. she last february she obtained the 4th place in the usatf indoor.
bonnie draxler, 25. best jumper still active in the ncaa ’19 (2nd). the best of her 14-11½ of her (4.56) is from the ncaa indoor that year. no competition in 2020 or so far in 21.
bridget guy, 24. A 2019 virginia graduate and fourth in the ncaa that year, she improved her best to 15-1½ (4.61) indoors in 2020 before the shutdown. she comes back strong in 2021 with 14-11 (4.55) in January.
annie rhodes-johnigan, 25. the baylor alumna was ranked no. 5 in 2019, 2nd in usa indoor, 6th in outdoor usatf and pred at 15-3.
kristen leland (née hixson), 28. 4 times in usa. uu. ranker (high from No. 4 in ’18). emerged to the elite status of div. ii great valley state in ’14. He flew over 15-3 twice in 2016 and placed third inside the USATF. does not meet in 2020, opened 21 at 14-3¼ (4.35)
kortney oates, 28. former miss ross, a graduate of san diego state now married to a 18-8¼ man (5.70) tray oates, took off at a pr 15-2¼ ( 4.63) inside in ’19, tied for fourth in undercover nationals and ranked no. She 10. She went 14-19 (4.52) last summer and opened this season at 14-9 (4.50) in January.
Daylis Caballero Vega, 32. An Olympic ’12 for Cuba. In 2019, after 3 years off the jump, she opened her first season as an American player. citizen at 14-9 (4.50), one centimeter below her 8-year-old pr. then in des moines at usatf she improved to 15-1 for the 5th. classified no. uu. 6 in 2019.
Also note, because they’ve improved so quickly, the precocious youngsters who over the past two seasons claimed the highest indoor and outdoor prep jumps: Chloe Cunliffe (14-9 in 2019) and Leah Pasqualetti (14 – 8¼/4.48). cunliffe is now a pro for puma, pasqualetti and akron frosh.
they have hung their poles
Three prominent names from past seasons have retired. lexi jacobus, rio’s third Olympian, and her ’19 ncaa champion sister tori hoggard, known during stellar prep runs and for most of their time in arkansas like the twin weeks, they have left the sport to pursue careers in pharmacy.
kylie hutson, the 2011 usatf champion and six-time winner of the u.s. ranker whose 15-7 (5.75) pr from ’13 usa indoor still has his equal-no. 5 in the usa uu. all-time list, left the sport after 2017. to do what? well, hutson’s instagram handle is @ratherbhiking.
what to expect?
how about what he said? asking in january after a weird year thanks covid-19 we got in touch with former men’s ar holder jeff hartwig now an agent who got as many looks on the field in 2020 as anyone.
“It’s definitely an opportunity for someone to step up and try to disrupt the big 3: sandi, katie, and jenn,” Hartwig observed. “I think olivia gruver can come into the mix and then there will be a lot of women around 4.65, 4.70 possibly, and it’s hard to say who might break through to go higher.”
We also see it that way. keep your vault vision sharp. Additionally, Eugene’s weather (wind and/or rain) has been known to throw a jack among the pigeons during test competitions. the 2012 edition won by suhr comes to mind. however, no one knows how hayward field’s new semi-enclosed bowl might alter conditions.