June 7, 2006
SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Senior Derek Mackel and junior Robert Caldwell's sensational 2006 season came to an end this evening at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships at Hornet Stadium. The University of New Mexico's representatives at the national meet both missed on all three attempts at their opening height of 16' 10 ¾" (5.15 meters) during the qualifying rounds and were eliminated from the competition. Mackel was one of four top-10 seeds knocked off, while Caldwell was one of the five All-Americans to fall on Wednesday in the unpredictable event.
Mackel and Caldwell, who opted to pass at the opening bar of 16' 4 ¾" (5.00m), were among 10 athletes who did not clear the 16' 10 ¾" mark. It was an unexpected end to the season for both men, who had surpassed the 17-foot mark a combined eight times during the spring. Twelve of the 28 competitors in the field earned a spot in Friday's final competition by surpassing 17' 4 ½" (5.30m).
Mackel, who cleared a career-best 18' 1" two weeks ago in Austin, Texas en route to the NCAA Midwest Regional title, failed to clear his opening height for just the third time all year, indoors or outdoors. The other two came on April 15 at UTEP and on March 10 in his NCAA debut at the Indoor Championships in Fayetteville, Ark. He and fellow No. 4 seed Graeme Hoste of Stanford, both finished with no height.
Caldwell, who tied for eighth to earn All-America honors at the NCAA Indoor Championships, recorded a no height for the first time since April 8. The Socorro, N.M. native cleared an outdoor best 17' 5" (5.31m) two weeks ago at the Midwest Regional meet to earn an at-large bid to nationals and had gone over 17 feet in his last two competitions.
Only one of the four Mountain West Conference competitors in the field managed to advance to the finals. BYU senior Robison Pratt, the defending NCAA outdoor champion, just missed a stunning exit of his own after missing once at 16' 10 ¾" and his first two attempts at 17' 4 ½". The Olympian brushed the bar on his third and final run, but managed to keep the bar up. Pratt's freshman teammate Whitney Neves was eliminated after clearing 16' 10 ¾".
While his remarkable college career came to an end in Sacramento, Mackel is still eligible for an at-large bid to the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, which begin on June 21 in Indianapolis. The Albuquerque Sandia High School product graduated in May with a degree in University Studies and has said he plans to return to UNM next year to serve as a volunteer pole vault coach while he continues to train. Caldwell, meanwhile, said he plans to use his available redshirt year in 2007 and return to competition as a senior in 2008.