Graham takes second place at nationals

By Doug Fitzgerald published March 11, 2011

ALBUQUERQUE - Lauren Graham missed becoming the first female national champion at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs by the narrowest of margins, clearing 4.13 meters but finishing second to Minnesota State's Lauren Stelton in the pole vault at the NCAA Division II National Track & Field Championships Friday at the Albuquerque Convention Center.

On her third attempt at 4.18 meters, Graham barely grazed the bar. It shuddered, looking like it might stay in place before one end eked off the mount and it fell. Stelton also missed on her final attempt, but she nicked the bar going up. Stelton, however, was named the champion because she missed just once at the winning height while Graham missed twice.

Graham's effort would have made her the first indoor track national champion at UCCS, male or female. Former Mountain Lion Moses Tum was the national champion in the 1,500 meter run at the 2005 outdoor national championships in Abilene, Texas.

Graham's vault Friday was a new UCCS school record and a personal best for the sophomore from Lancaster, Calif.

Four vaulters advanced to 4.03 meters, which Graham and Stelton each cleared on their second attempt. The two Grand Valley State competitors, Jocelyn Kuksa and Kristen Hixson, failed on three attempts and finished third and fourth, respectively.

The bar was then raised to 4.13 meters, a height neither of the finalists had previously accomplished. Graham was the top seed entering nationals with a best of 4.06 meters and Stelton was seeded second at 4.03 meters.

Both failed on their first attempt, but Stelton achieved it on her second attempt. Since Graham had gone first, her third and final attempt was as pressure-lacked as it could have been. Graham cleared the height with room to spare on the final attempt, pushing the bar to 4.18 m.

The win culminated a brilliant career for Stelton, a senior who had already finished second at nationals twice.  In her first, in 2008, teammate Katelin Rains set the national indoor record by clearing 4.31 meters.


For pole vault results, click here.

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