Michael Bennett wins national championship to lead UChicago track and field at day one of NCAA Indoor Nationals

Michael Bennett and Pam Yu
Michael Bennett and Pam Yu

NCAA.com article on Bennett

LINCOLN, Neb. – University of Chicago sophomore Michael Bennett won a national championship in the pole vault to highlight day one of the NCAA Division III Indoor Track & Field Championships on Friday.

The Maroons had four athletes in competition on Friday, led off by Bennett in the pole vault. The sophomore cleared his first four heights of the day on the first try – 4.60, 4.75, 4.85 and 4.90 meters. No competitors were able to clear 4.95 meters, which meant Bennett was tied with two other vaulters at 4.90. However, Bennett was the only athlete who was able to reach that height without any misses, which gave him the national championship.

UChicago picked up its 14th individual national championship in school history and its eighth national title in track and field.

"The big key was he vaulted cleanly and didn't miss leading up to the final height," said Head Coach Chris Hall. "Looking at the primary competitors, the kid from University of Dubuque was way out in front of everyone in the national honor rolls. But Michael staying clean may have added pressure on everyone else. He had a good experience at outdoor nationals last year and felt comfortable vaulting. It was a surprise and just a wonderful performance. I couldn't be more proud."

Assistant Coach Stephen Fleagle, who coaches the pole vaulters, agreed that the clean start was the key to victory. "That's how he won. He was consistent with everything that he did today," Fleagle said. "He was undefeated all indoor season, so he knows how to respond to high-pressure situations. I told Michael if he vaulted the height that got him here, he would be an All-American. And this time, that was the height that won him the championship."

The Maroons also had three participants on the women's side. Junior Pam Yu was in the finals of the long jump and finished in 14th place with a best leap of 5.21 meters.

Sophomore Brianna Hickey ran in the one mile prelims in the afternoon and was one of the top 10 runners who qualified for Saturday's final. Hickey recorded the third-fastest time in 4:56.76.

Freshman Michelle Dobbs wrapped up the day by racing in the 800 meter prelims. Dobbs qualified for the final on Saturday with a seventh-place showing in 2:12.66.

UChicago Top Finishers (Men)
Pole Vault (FINALS) – Michael Bennett (1st, 4.90 meters)

UChicago Top Finishers (Women)
Long Jump (FINALS) – Pam Yu (14th, 5.21 meters)
One Mile (PRELIMS) – Brianna Hickey (3rd, 4:56.76)
800 meters (PRELIMS) – Michelle Dobbs (7th, 2:12.66)

NEXT MEET:

  • Saturday, Mar. 15 – UChicago at NCAA Division III Indoor Track & Field Championships (at Lincoln, Neb.)