The Year Of The Vault II: The Reckoning

Welcome to America’s favorite game show, "Guess The Year."

(Cue audience applause … or jeers)

Are you ready to play?


  • The collegiate outdoor record in the women’s pole vault fell earlier in the season
  • The long-standing collegiate outdoor record in the men’s pole vault is being threatened by the No. 2 performer in collegiate history, who just so happened to break the indoor record a few months earlier
  • Competition at the national level is fierce between the respective genders

(Cue thought-provoking audio track)

OK. Time’s up.

What’s your answer?

If you said 2015, you’d be right.

If you said 2019, well, you’d be right, too.

Welcome to The Year of the Vault II: The Reckoning.

The Year of the Vault II: The Reckoning


Back in 2015, Sandi Morris of Arkansas and Demi Payne of Stephen F. Austin dominated the women’s pole vault. During the outdoor season alone, they bettered the collegiate record four times, including twice in a span of one week (Payne topped her own mark from earlier in the season at the Southland Conference Championships and then Morris returned the favor at the SEC Championships five days later).

Skip ahead four years and Washington’s Olivia Gruver has a leg up on the competition – and the collegiate outdoor record – but she knows a number of other talented women are ready to strike. Leading that group is none other than Lexi Jacobus of Arkansas, who is currently the second best performer in collegiate indoor history and the fourth best performer in collegiate outdoor history.

Back in 2015, Shawn Barber appeared to be in a class of his own as he took aim Lawrence Johnson’s collegiate record that stood since 1996 after breaking the indoor record a few months earlier. Barber fell short of that goal, but still ended that season as the second best performer in collegiate history.

Now in 2019, Mondo Duplantis is even closer than Barber ever was and currently finds himself nipping at Johnson’s heels. It’s also rather fitting that Mondo broke Barber’s indoor record back in February at the SEC Championships.

Duplantis isn’t completely alone at the top, though. The freshman phenom is being pushed by Zach Bradford of Kansas, KC Lightfoot of Baylor, Matt Ludwig of Akron and Chris Nilsen of South Dakota. Nilsen is currently ranked second in the nation and has three jumps of better than 19 feet in 2019.

"This has been really exciting to see," said Johnson, who is now coaching athletes in the private sector after an incredibly successful career in which he won a world championship and an Olympic silver medal, among other accolades. "There has been a resurgence at the collegiate level on both the men’s and women’s side. This is what you want to see as an athlete and as a fan."

And just like 2015 – and any other year, for that matter – 2019 will wrap up at the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships.

Unlike 2015, the 2019 installment of NCAAs will be held inside Mike A. Myers Stadium in Austin, Texas, a prospect that excites coaches and vaulters alike.

"You always look forward to jumping at Texas," said Toby Stevenson, who coaches Gruver at Washington and won the silver medal at the 2004 Athens Summer Olympics. "You’ll have a tailwind. It will be warm. Those are just perfect conditions. It will be about the most absolute primal point of the sport: Who can jump the highest? It won’t be about who can survive the conditions."