Delaware, Ohio, May 22, 2014 – Washington University in St. Louis senior Anna Etherington, Deer Park, Ill. (Barrington) finished her career in perfect fashion by winning the women's pole vault national championship with a school-record height to highlight the first day of the NCAA Division III Outdoor Track & Field Championships Thursday at Ohio Wesleyan University.
Etherington was perfect throughout the competition, clearing 3.75 meters and 3.85 to solidify her third straight outdoor All-America honor as one of five remaining vaulters. Three more vaulters missed at 3.90, leaving Etherington and MIT sophomore Cimran Virdi as the only remaining competitors. Etherington cleared 3.95 on her first attempt and Virdi, the 2014 Indoor National Champion, matched her with a first-attempt clearance. Etherington and Virdi each cleared 4.00, 4.05 and 4.10 on their first attempts to move to 4.15m, which would be the fourth-highest mark in NCAA Division III history. Etherington kept her slate clean with a clearance on her first attempt, while Virdi missed her three attempts at the height. After clinching the title, Etherington took three attempts at an NCAA Division III meet-record height of 4.24m to finish her career.
After finishing as the national runner-up a year ago, Etherington became the fourth individual national champion in Washington University women's track & field history, joining Emily Richard (indoor 5,000 in 1998; outdoor 5,000 in 1999) and Morgan Leonard-Fleckman (indoor pole vault in 2008). The 4.15m mark bettered Etherington's own school record of 4.11m set a week ago. It also broke the stadium record of 4.14m set in 2011. She finished her career as a six-time All-American in the pole vault, capturing three honors each indoors and outdoors.
Junior Drew Padgett raced to All-America honors on Thursday as well. He placed fourth in the men's 10,000 with a time of 31:22.08. Padgett became just the second athlete in Washington University men's history to earn All-America honors in cross country, indoor and outdoor track & field in the same year. He finished 25th for All-America honors at the 2013 NCAA Cross Country Championships and placed seventh in the 3,000 at the 2014 NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships. Padgett is also scheduled to compete in the men's 5,000 final at 5:05 p.m. (ET) Saturday. Senior Kevin Sparks closed his career by racing to 11th place in the 10,000 with a time of 31:43.72.
The men's 1,600 relay team of sophomore James Fitzhugh, senior Arthur Townsend, junior James Hallwood and freshman Deko Ricketts broke its own school record by nearly two seconds, clocking a time of 3:12.92 in the prelims to close Thursday's action. The Washington U. team just missed advancing to Saturday's event final, finishing ninth overall. Hallwood also competed in the men's 200 Thursday, placing 16th with a time of 21.75.
Junior Lucy Cheadle earned a spot in Saturday's final of the women's 3,000 steeplechase, advancing with the fourth-fastest prelim time Thursday. Cheadle cruised to a time of 10:43.62 to finish third in her heat and advance as one of 14 runners in Saturday's final scheduled for 1 p.m. (ET). Cheadle is looking for her second All-America finish in the event, after placing seventh as a freshman in 2012.
Junior Claire Simons joined Etherington in the women's pole vault competition. She cleared 3.60m, before going out at an attempted career-best height of 3.75m to finish 12th overall. Juniors Nick Alaniva and Troy Makous competed in the men's pole vault Thursday. Both cleared 4.75m, the second-best marks of their careers, before missing at 4.85m. Alaniva finished in a tie for 11th, while Makous was 15th.
After four events scored, Washington University sits in a tie for third in the team standings with 10 points from Etherington's win. Williams College is currently in first with 14 team points. Padgett's fourth-place finish netted the Washington U. men five team points to put them in a tie for 11th with four events scored. North Central College (Ill.) scored 20 points Thursday to sit atop the men's team standings.
Sophomore Emily Warner and Ricketts are the lone competitors for Washington U. Friday. Warner competes in the women's 800 prelims at 8 p.m. (ET), while Ricketts takes the track for the men's 800 prelim at 8:15.