SOU pole vaulter makes school history at NAIA nationals
GULF SHORES, Ala. — Southern Oregon University was enjoying a perfectly satisfying Thursday afternoon at the NAIA Outdoor Track and Field Championships leading up to Stephanie Techler's final turns in the pole vault.
Then it turned historic.
Techler, a junior from Berlin, etched her name in Raider lore by securing SOU's first individual women's title in 19 years on a day when Eric Ghelfi and Markus Sanders became All-Americans and three others advanced to their respective finals.
Techler was one of six individuals to clear 12 feet, 11/2 inches, but the only one to do it on her first attempt. Her qualifying mark of 11-113/4, which was already a school record, was tied for eighth-best in the NAIA coming into the meet.
"I was just as surprised as everyone else; it's really unexpected," said Techler, who placed 10th overall last year. "It means a lot. When I cleared it, my first thought was that I had the school record and I'd probably be an All-American, and that was exciting enough for me."
She was one of the last to find out the title was hers, not knowing for sure until she was unexpectedly approached with congratulations.
"I was just waiting around with sweaty hands, and (SOU assistant Kyle Hansen) told me, 'I can't guarantee anything, but I think you got it,'" she said. "I was trying not to get my hopes up. I couldn't believe it."
She became SOU's fifth female national champion and the only one since Jill Carrier won the heptathlon in 1995. Never before had a Raider woman won the pole vault.
Sanders attained All-American status by placing seventh in the men's hammer, covering 185-11 with his third attempt for his best mark of the season. He was one of five representatives of the Cascade Conference in the top seven and missed sixth place by just one inch. Concordia swept the top three spots led by Darien Moore, who threw 211-1.
Ghelfi, who along with Sanders was making his first appearance at the NAIA Championships, capped the day by claiming eight place in the 10,000-meter finals to become SOU's third All-American. He finished in 31 minutes, 45.69 seconds — about 10 seconds faster than ninth-place Anthony Simpson of Bryant (R.I.). Oklahoma City's Csaba Matko won in 30:34.11. Ghelfi, who was an All-American in cross country, is SOU's second men's All-American in the 10K and has the top seed for Saturday's marathon.
Jared Hixon and Eric Avila earned spots in Saturday's 1,500-meter final by placing first and third in the preliminaries. They were tops in their 12-person heat, and Hixon got loose late to clock a personal best of 3:51.13. Avila finished in 3:52.41, and Zach Boyd-Helm just missed qualifying but placed 15th overall in 3:54.57.
Amelia Maguin will also have a top seed in the finals after winning the women's 400-meter hurdle preliminaries. She clocked 1:00.88, nearly a second faster than defending champion Zalika Dixon of Indiana Tech, who won a heat of her own. As one of eight qualifiers for Saturday's final, Maguin is set to become the 12th two-time All-American in SOU women's history.
In the men's 200-meter preliminaries, CCC champ Cameron Bremner capped his freshman season with a 19th-place finish in 21.82 seconds. He was also part of SOU's 4x100-meter relay team — also featuring Robert Benamati, Kermit Knight and Jonz Olander — that placed 23rd in the preliminaries with a time of 42.22. The eighth and final qualifier in that event, Marian (Ind.), finished in 41.43.
Cary Dunagan placed 18th in the 3,000-meter steeplechase preliminaries in 9:40.12, missing out on the final by four spots.