March 10, 2006
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - University of New Mexico junior Robert Caldwell finished tied for eighth in the men's pole vault tonight at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championship meet to become the second Lobo ever to earn All-America honors in the event. Caldwell, a Socorro, N.M. native, cleared 17' 6 .5" in his national meet debut, giving UNM an All-American at the indoor meet in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1989-90.
Unfortunately, fifth-year senior Derek Mackel missed all three attempts at his opening height of 17' 0.5" and did not place in his first NCAA meet. Mackel had cleared 17 feet in each of his five meets this winter and entered the meet seeded seventh with a mark of 17' 11". Mackel wasn't alone, however, as four other top-10 seeds failed to score in the unpredictable event, including No. 3 seeded Brian Mondschein of Virginia Tech, who finished 13th.
"Robert did a nice job tonight, but I feel real bad for Derek - he's really hurting right now," UNM head coach Matt Henry said. "Both of those guys are a little disappointed because they know they could've gone higher, but the pole vault is the most unpredictable event in track and field. They had a chance to learn something here tonight and they'll both have another chance to feel better in Sacramento at the (NCAA) outdoor meet."
Caldwell joined Australian Simon Arkell (1989) as the only UNM pole vaulters to take home All-America honors from the NCAA Indoor Championship meet. Fellow New Mexican Matt Gonzales (Santa Fe) finished fourth in the 5,000-meter run last year to snap a 15-year All-America drought for the Lobos at the NCAA Indoor Championships.
"Derek's run just wasn't on tonight, but this was a great experience for both of these guys," UNM pole vault coach Scott Steffan said. "Robert opened up at 17 feet for the first time this year and cleared it on his first attempt. He was just under his PR on his next jump and had some good looks at 5.45 meters (17-10.50), but just missed it."
Caldwell who secured his spot in the national field with a career-high mark of 17' 7.25" two weeks ago at the Mountain West Conference Championships, cleared the opening height of 17' 0.5" on his first try and surpassed 17' 6.5" on his second attempt. Clemson's Mitch Greeley and Northern Iowa's Andre Poljanec also passed 17' 6.5" on their second run and all three men bowed out at 17' 10.5" to forge a three-way tie for eighth.
Oregon senior Tommy Skipper successfully defended his 2005 NCAA indoor pole vault title with a mark of 18' 6.5". Skipper edged the defending outdoor national champion, BYU senior Robison Pratt, who used three more attempts to clear the same height.
"We've got two of the top-16 vaulters in the country and that really says something about the kind of season they had," Steffan said. "Now its time to learn from this and get ready to jump high outdoors."
New Mexico opens the outdoor season on March 25 at Arizona.