COLLEGE STATION, Texas (USD) — Two more South Dakota pole vaulters are headed on to the NCAA Championships, as senior Helen Falda and redshirt-freshman Gen Hirata punched their tickets Thursday afternoon at the NCAA West Preliminary inside E.B. Cushing Stadium.
Hirata and Falda were two of eight vaulters to clear the competition’s final height of 14-0 (4.27m) and secure their spot in the championship field. Hirata, who earned her first career All-America honors indoors this past March, advances to the NCAA Outdoor Championships on her first try. Falda qualifies for her fourth NCAA Outdoor Championships. She’s a six-time All-American in the pole vault. The itinerary of the preliminary round is unique in that the competition ends when 12 or fewer vaulters clear a height and the field is set. The finals are set for June 9-12 at the newly remodeled Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon.
South Dakota advanced four vaulters to the national meet, the most of any school in the nation. The women’s duo joins men’s pole vaulters senior Ethan Bray and redshirt-freshman Marshall Faurot in the Eugene field. The Coyotes’ nine combined entries to the NCAA West Preliminary was the most by any school in either region.
Joining Hirata and Falda in the women’s pole vault were redshirt-sophomore Deidra Marrison and freshman Jaidyn Garrett. Marrison finished 23rd in the field with a make of 13-4 ¼. Garrett cleared 12-4 ½ (3.77m).
Freshman Sara Reifenrath competed in the 400 meters and 200 meters on Thursday night. She recorded a time of 23.52 seconds in the 200 meters for 35th place. Prior to that race, she had clocked a personal best 53.21 seconds in the 400 meters and took third in her heat, which would have put her through to the quarterfinals. She was later disqualified for two consecutive steps on the lane line.
In the throwing events, redshirt-freshman Lydia Knapp launched the hammer 181-8 (55.39m) and redshirt-sophomore Josephine Starner sent the javelin 128-10 (39.27m). The first flight of the women’s hammer will be re-contested on Friday morning, but Knapp currently sits in 31st place.
The Coyotes return to action at the NCAA West Preliminary on Friday, with the men’s high jump kicking off the action at 1 p.m.