Sophomore Olivia Gruver won Kentucky’s seventh individual NCAA outdoor championships title, and first in the pole vault, on Thursday night in Eugene, Ore.
Gruver’s winning clearance of 14-feet, nine inches/4.50 meters scored 10 points for her team, and Sha’Keela Saunders added four more with a fifth-place finish in the long jump.
“It’s just surreal.” Gruver said, according a news release by UK. “I don’t even know what’s happening, but it’s fun. I love competing against great people because you know that when you win, you’re good. It’s crazy, but I want to say that everyone did a great job today.”
Gruver — the top qualifier out of the East Preliminary Championships on her home runway 14 days ago — recovered well from failing to clear any height at the Southeastern Conference Championships earlier this season.
She took bronze in the NCAA and SEC Indoor Championships earlier this year. Gruver advanced to the NCAA outdoor championships finals site last year, where she placed 21st having cleared 13'3.5"/4.05m.
Vaulting in cool, mostly overcast conditions after rain fell earlier on Thursday, Gruver cruised over the bar on her first two attempts.
She missed her first attempt at 14’5.25”/4.40m, but then cleared on the second attempt. The Baltimore product then got over 14’7.25”/4.45m on her first go, by which point only 2016 NCAA champion Alexis Weeks of Arkansas remained in the competition.
With just two athletes left, and all eyes trained upon the Hayward Field back stretch runway, Gruver cleared the next height just barely brushing the bar at 14’9”/4.50m, yet getting over with a personal best by one centimeter.
Weeks missed her first attempt at that height and elected to pass through to the next: 14’11”/4.55m.
Having failed to get over at the lower bar, she had only two misses remaining and couldn’t fly above the standard, giving Gruver her first national title.
Gruver made three attempts at 14’11”/4.55m, but was unable to clear.
Saunders, the 2017 NCAA and SEC Indoor champion, needed to improve on her final long jump attempt, but could only reach a mark of 21’3.25”/6.48m to place fifth. She wrapped up her collegiate career as an NCAA champion, two-time SEC champion, and five-time NCAA medalist.