Al Hizam wins pole vault title on day 1 of NCAA Indoors
COLLEGE STATION, Texas – For the first time in 45 years and just the second time in history, the NCAA Division I Men’s Indoor pole vault title belongs to a Kansas Jayhawk. Junior Hussain Al Hizam made his NCAA Indoor Championship debut on Friday evening at the Gilliam Indoor Stadium in College Station, Texas and came away with the national title and multiple records to go along with it.
Al Hizam’s title was one of two First Team All-America performances for the Jayhawks on Friday, with redshirt junior Sharon Lokedi earning a trip to the podium with a third-place performance in the 5,000-meter run.
After the first day of the national championships, the Kansas men sit in a tie for fifth with 10 points thanks to Al Hizam’s gold, and the Jayhawk women are tied for 13th with Lokedi’s six points.
Al Hizam, a product of Jubail, Saudi Arabia, not only won the first Kansas men’s indoor pole vault national title since Terry Porter in 1973, but he also set a personal record by 6.75 inches, which re-set the Saudia Arabian national record that he already held, he set the KU men’s indoor record by a quarter of an inch, and he tied the Gilliam facility record set last year at the national championships by South Dakota’s Chris Nilson.
— Kansas Track & Field (@KUTrack) March 10, 2018
Nilson had a front row seat to witness the first Kansas men’s individual indoor title in any event since 2008, as the South Dakota sophomore finished runner-up in the vault with a clearance of 5.60 meters (18-4.5 ft.).
The Jayhawk and Big 12 Conference champion hardly faced adversity at the meet, clearing his first five attempts and securing the win without a miss. Al Hizam eased over the opening bar of 5.30 meters (17-4.5 ft.) and had wrapped up at-worst a ninth-place finish by his third jump after seven of the 16 competitors were unable to clear the 5.50-meter (18-0.5 ft.) bar.
Feeling great through his first three attempts, Al Hizam elected to pass on the fourth height of 5.55 meters (18-2.5 ft.), which would have been an indoor personal best, but sailed over the next bar at 5.60 meters (18-4.5 ft.) for a personal record with no trouble.
Down to six competitors in the event, the bar was raised to 5.65 meters (18-6.5 ft.) and Al Hizam cleared it on his first attempt while no other vaulters were able to make the clearance, giving him the victory. The junior went on to clear a Kansas record of 5.70 meters (18-8.25 ft.) on his second attempt before missing out on 5.80 meters (19-0.25 ft.).
“This was Hussain’s goal,” Kansas track & field head coach Stanley Redwine said. “There were so many mornings I would see him getting in extra workouts for this moment, and his dream became a reality tonight, all because of his hard work. Coach (Tom) Hays did a great job with him today and this season, getting him to peak at the right time.
“For him to be able to not only win the title, but to get the facility record just shows how good he was today. There have been a lot of great conference and national meets here, and now he can say he was the best of them all.”
Adding to the excitement of Al Hizam’s national title, Lokedi picked up her third-place finish in a highly competitive field in the 5,000 meters by finishing with a time of 15:52.95, the second-fastest time in Kansas indoor history behind only her own school record set earlier this season.
Sharon Lokedi earns the second #ncaaTF Indoor First Team All-America honor of her career by finishing ?? in the 5,000 meters! She takes a shot at another one on Saturday when she runs the 3,000! #KUtrack
A post shared by Kansas Track & Field (@kutrack) on Mar 9, 2018 at 6:52pm PST
Lokedi climbed into the third-place spot the 600-meter mark and stayed there until the 1,400-meter mark where she slipped back one spot into fourth. Falling as far back as fifth, Lokedi scratched her way back into third by the 2,600-meter split, ultimately staying in that position the remainder of the race and distancing herself from the rest of the pack along with Missouri’s Karissa Schweizer and New Mexico’s Ednah Kurgat, who finished first and second, respectively.
Lokedi will try her chances at yet another First Team All-America bid on Saturday in the 3,000 meters, which is slated to be ran at 6:25 p.m. CST.
“When it comes to Sharon, we try not to take her for granted,” Redwine said. “She is so consistent and she competes so hard every time she is out there. That was a great field of athletes in the 5,000, and she positioned herself perfectly to get a good result.”
Prior to Lokedi’s bronze medal finish, Kansas sophomore Bryce Hoppel coasted into the final of the 800-meter run by finishing third in his heat to notch an auto-qualifying spot.
Hoppel clocked the sixth-fastest time in KU indoor history in the 800 meters, finishing in 1:47.96 behind Penn State’s Isaiah Harris and Clemson’s John Lewis in his heat. The final for the 800 meters is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on Saturday.
“Bryce is ready to go tomorrow,” Redwine said. “He is hungry, and when you are hungry like that, great things are going to happen. He is a really smart racer, and I think Coach Whitt (Michael Whittlesey) is doing a great job of preparing him. He goes out and races well and puts himself in a great position.”
Another Jayhawk to see action on the first day of the NCAA Championships was senior thrower Nicolai Ceban, who notched his third Indoor All-America honor with a 10th-place finish in the shot put with a mark of 18.99 meters (62-3.75 ft.) to earn a spot on the All-America Second Team.
The women’s distance medley relay team rounded out the first day of action at the NCAA Indoor Championships with a ninth-place finish to earn Second Team All-America honors, clocking the sixth-fastest time in KU women’s indoor history at 11:12.91.
Senior Hannah Dimmick led off with the 1,200-meter leg and recorded a split of 3:30.37 before handing off to junior Nicole Montgomery for the 400-meter leg. Montgomery split for 53.36 seconds and passed the baton on to junior Marleena Eubanks who ran the 800-meter leg in 2:06.86. Senior Courtney Coppinger finished off the race with a 1,600-meter split of 4:42.33 for ninth.
Along with Lokedi’s 3,000-meter run and Hoppel’s 800-meter final, senior Laura Taylor will be competing in the pole vault at 4 p.m. on Saturday, senior Barden Adams will take on the nation’s best in the triple jump at 5 p.m. and both men’s and women’s 4×400-meter relay teams will chase First Team All-America bids at 6:40 and 6:55 p.m., respectively. ESPN3 will stream the final day of the meet live, starting at 4 p.m. A re-air of the championship will take place starting at 6 p.m. Sunday, March 11 on ESPN2.
KUAthletics.com: The official online source for Kansas Athletics, Williams Education Fund contributions, tickets, merchandise, multimedia, photos and much, much more.