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USD's Pole Vaulter Chris Nilsen Reclaims his Title at NCAA Division I Championships

Chris Nilsen, NCAA pole vault champion. Chris Nilsen won his third national title in pole vault at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championship meet.

VERMILLION, S.D. – Chris Nilsen, a junior kinesiology and sports management major, broke his NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championship record in pole vault for the second time, clearing a career-best of 19 feet, 6.25 inches.

Nilsen is currently ranked No. 2 in the world this season and is ranked third in NCAA history. He also remains the American leader.

“Regardless of what I’m doing, it shows to the talent of the other people who were above me and around me,” Nilsen said. “There were seven guys over 18-8 ¼, which has never happened before in the history of NCAA pole vault. To see that happen and to see the talent that’s coming up and taking place right now in the pole vault world, in the professional world and the college world, it’s amazing to take part.”

Nilsen said Coach Derek Miles’s guidance and perspective helped guide him in the right direction.

“Coach Miles has an interesting way of looking at things, and it’s a very good way because he has been on the circuit before and he’s very adept to pole vault,” said Nilsen. “Since he has been in my shoes before, he knows exactly what I’m going to have to do, and he knew that we needed to train a certain way and come to this meet with a different mentality. He said, ‘We’re not coming to beat anyone, we’re not coming to win, we’re just coming to jump high and see if we could come out of this with a personal best.’ That’s exactly what we did.”


Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 202 undergraduate and 84 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, Knudson School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 16:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 18 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.


Hanna DeLange
USD News