Written by Emma Jones, Balazs Balassa and Morgan Wrigley // Photo by Balazs Balassa
Five players from the Harding track and field teams earned All-America honors at the NCAA Division II Indoor Track and Field Championships held last weekend, March 10-11, at the Virginia Beach Sports Center in Virginia.
Vlad Malykhin, a freshman from Shostka, Ukraine, won the national championship in the pole vault with a height of 5.52 meters (18 feet, 1.25 inches), which was the highest clearance ever at the NCAA Division II indoor national championships, the third-highest ever recorded in Division II and a Harding school record, according to hardingsports.com.
“I was very happy, and I appreciate all the people who support me, who support Ukraine,” Malykhin said. “I really appreciate it.”
Head track and field coach Don Hood said he ordered new poles that arrived two weeks before the national championship meet, which he hoped would suit Malykhin’s vault style better. Malykhin’s previous vault record was 5.32 meters (17 feet, 5.5 inches), and he said the new poles were “really worth it.”
Other All-America athletes from the men’s team included sophomore Antiwain Jones, who placed fifth in the high jump by tying his school record of 2.15 meters (7 feet, 0.5 inches); senior Dakarai Bush, who placed sixth in the 60-meter hurdles with a time of 7.95 seconds; and freshman Yves Bilong, who placed sixth in the triple jump with a jump of 15.13 meters (49 feet, 7.75 inches). The men’s team tied for 10th overall with 20 points, its first top-10 finish since 2009.
The Lady Bisons only had one competitor at the national meet, senior pole vaulter Sierra White, who placed fifth with a height of 4.05 meters (13 feet, 3.5 inches), breaking her own school record and making her the second Lady Bison indoor track and field athlete to ever earn multiple All-America honors.
“This year it’s my senior year, so I was nervous because I wanted to do well, and I didn’t want to end [indoor] on a bad note,” White said. “I had a tough season leading up to it so it was difficult to approach it and be like, ‘Okay I have to clear this,’ but then I did, and it was really really exciting. … It was a very electric meet and moment.”
Hood said he feels the teams’ success stems partially from his coaching staff, and that he feels very fortunate to have the staff that he has working with him right now.
“I think it’s one of the best coaching staffs in Division II, maybe the country,” Hood said. “It’s a good time to be here right now.”
With the conclusion of indoor season, the track and field teams will be transitioning into their outdoor season starting this weekend as they host their first home meet at their new outdoor facility, located by the intramural fields. Harding Healthy Eating Active Living will host a meet tailgate Saturday at 1 p.m.
“I hope some people will come out this weekend and watch a little bit,” Hood said.