DES MOINES, Iowa—Derick Hinch was feeling flat prior to the men’s pole vault Friday at the NCAA Track and Field Championships.
Nobody watching would have known following his third-place finish. Hinch, a sophomore at Arizona State, maxed out at 18 feet, 01⁄2 inches. That equaled the mark of Harvard’s Nico Weiler, but Hinch earned third because of fewer misses.
It was almost an early exit for Hinch, who attended Cuesta College for two years. He passed the first height and then missed his first two tries at 16-43⁄4. One more miss and he would have been out and, as per tradition, forced to watch from the Drake Stadium infield until all competitors had finished.
Hinch made it and then kept hitting mark after mark. Passing 18-01⁄2 assured him of All-American status, bestowed on those finishing in the top eight.
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“If he’d missed that, he would have finished ninth,” Arizona State coach Ron Barela said. “He didn’t know where he was at, but I did. He just kept competing.”
Hinch, who is on the bubble for qualifying for the U.S. Olympic Trials, tied his career best.
“I wanted to come in low and get everything rolling. Normally I would have gone higher, but it’s a big meet and I wanted to start low,” Hinch said.
Jack Whitt of Oral Roberts won with a mark of 18-61⁄2. Barela thinks Hinch could do the same in the next two years.“The biggest thing is to get him to do well in school because when they come from junior college sometimes they’re not really prepared, but he did a good job,” Barela said. “The way he jumps has been a blessing.”
Cal Poly’s John Prader didn’t fare as well, taking 14th with a height of 17-41⁄2. Prader, a junior, cleared two heights but was unable to go further. Teammate Whitney Sisler, a senior, had a disappointing end to her career, failing to clear a height in the women’s high jump. Sisler missed all three attempts at 5-7.
Prader and Sisler did not appear in the media room after the meet and could not be reached for comment.