Sandi Morris Charges To U.S. Pole Vault Title; Olympic Champs Crouser And Allman Win Too
by Chrös McDougall
Sandi Morris competes during the women's pole vault at the 2022 USATF Outdoor Championships on June 24, 2022 in Eugene, Ore.
A fluke broken pole kept Sandi Morris out of the women’s pole vault final at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 last summer. She’s not letting anything stop her so far this season.
The 29-year-old from Greenville, South Carolina, has won every competition she has entered in 2022. She came into this weekend’s USATF Outdoor Championships in Eugene, Oregon, with the world-leading height.
And on Friday night, she kept the momentum going.
Morris cleared 4.82 meters — beating her previous season-best by one centimeter — to win her fourth U.S. title, defeating defending Olympic gold medalist Katie Nageotte in the process. Aline McDonald and Nageotte each cleared 4.65 meters, though McDonald took second via tiebreaker.
This year’s U.S. championships also serve as the main qualifier for the world championships that will be held on the same Hayward Field track in three weeks. Running July 15-24, these world championships will be the first in the five-decade history of the event to be held on U.S. soil.
Any top-three finisher this weekend who also has met the world championships standard will qualify, though there are other ways to qualify. Notably, any defending world or Diamond League champions receive an automatic berth in the world championships.
Both Morris, the 2016 Olympic silver medalist and two-time world championships silver medalist, and Nageotte are expected to be top contenders for the pole vault world title.
Two Tokyo Olympic champions also won national titles Friday, the second of four days of competition at Hayward Field on the University of Oregon campus.
Ryan Crouser, an Oregon native who is also the men’s shot put world record holder, won that event with a world-best throw of 23.12 meters.
Joe Kovacs, a two-time world champion who also won silver medals at the 2017 world championships as well as the last two Olympics, placed second to Crouser in a season-best 22.87 meters, while Josh Awotunde took third in 21.51.
Crouser is the two-time defending Olympic gold medalist and won a silver medal at the 2019 world championships. He had a had a 27-competition winning streak snapped when he finished second at the world indoor championships in March but has since won four straight outdoor contests.
In the women’s discus, reigning Olympic champion Valarie Allman continued her dominance with a winning throw of 66.92 meters. Allman, who also set a new American record earlier this year, has the best mark in the world this season. The former competitive dancer could be set for a showdown next month with Croatia’s Sandra Perkovic, the 2012 and ’16 Olympic champion. The two traded wins in the past two Diamond League meetings.
Laulauga Tausaga-Collins took second with a personal-best throw of 64.49 meters, followed by Olympian Rachel Dincoff at 62.14 meters.
An anticipated showdown between Christian Coleman and Fred Kerley in the men’s 100-meter will have to wait for the world championships after Coleman was a late scratch. As the reigning world champion, Coleman has an automatic bid to worlds.
In his absence, Tokyo silver medalist Kerley pulled away from the field to win in a scorching 9.77 seconds. It was one-hundredth of a second slower than his semifinal time, which is easily the fastest time in the world this year.
Marvin Bracy-Williams, a 2016 Olympian, was second with a personal best time of 9.85, followed by two-time Olympian Trayvon Bromell at 9.88. Bromell is a 2015 world championships bronze medalist in the event.
The women’s 100 was less predictable.
Two weeks after finishing eighth on the same track at the NCAA championships, Melissa Jefferson raced to her first U.S. title in 10.69 seconds, out-leaning Olympian Aleia Hobbs by three-hundredths of a second. Twanisha Terry finished third, crossing just five-hundredths behind Jefferson. All three are headed to their first world championships, although Hobbs won a relay silver medal with Team USA in Tokyo.
“Had I done what I did today at NCAA’s I might not be here today,” Jefferson said, “so I’m grateful.”
A junior at Coastal Carolina, Jefferson’s only major title prior to tonight was in the NCAA indoor 60-meter earlier this year.
Vashti Cunningham won the women’s high jump at 1.93 meters to secure her world championships berth. Cunningham was also the top U.S. finisher in Tokyo, tying for sixth place. She won a bronze medal at the 2019 world championships.
Rayvon Grey was the other U.S. champion crowned Friday, with the LSU All-American winning the men’s long jump with a personal best of 8.19 meters.
Among several heats also held Friday, Allyson Felix, the most decorated woman in track and field history, advanced to Saturday’s final in the women’s 400-meter. Felix, 36, plans to retire after this season.