Colorado Mesa University pole vault and heptathlon athletes set two school records, as well as automatic qualifying marks for nationals in the same 24-hour span.
Pole vaulter Nolan Ellis and Heptathlon athlete Spencer Jahr are both redshirt junior athletes on the CMU track team.
Spencer Jahr set the new school record in the heptathlon at 5373 points before the conversion. With the small track conversion score, Jahr’s score accumulated to a 5413, which was good enough earn him an automatic qualifying mark for the indoor national championships.
The heptathlon consists of seven track and field events over two days. The first day events are the 60m dash, long jump, shot put, high jump; the second-day being 60m hurdles, pole vault and then a 1000m run. Each athlete receives a certain amount of points per event based on the performance and all of the scores are totaled at the end to create the final score.
Nolan Ellis became the first-ever CMU men’s track and field athlete to ever set an NCAA Division II Automatic Qualifying mark after he cleared 5.25 meters in the pole vault event.
Jahr and Ellis are the first two athletes in program history to make the Division II automatic qualifying national mark, and they accomplished that feat in the same 24 hours.
“The best part for me was what I got to experience this past weekend, where all the lows and training finally come together and makes the success that much sweeter,” Jahr said.
This is Jahr’s fourth year of being a multi-event athlete and fourth year on the CMU track and field team.
“I must say it feels pretty good, good knowing that these past three and a half years of work are showing some results,” Jahr said.
Training is different for multi-event athletes. Jahr explained that they train for long days. The typical practice would include jump technique like long jump or high jump followed by hurdle work, speed work and then to the weight room with throwing technique sprinkled in.
“I would say that the hardest part about this sport is just being persistent through all the low’s with injuries and training,” Jahr said.
Jarh’s goal for the rest of the season is to become more confident in his weaker events leading up to nationals. This way he can go out there and be the best he can be. As for the whole team, he believes that this program is finally going to take off.
“Predictions I have for the whole team this weekend is that Mesa disrupts all of the RMAC current standings and puts a little concern into the other RMAC coaches and athletes,” Jahr said.
Nolan Ellis set the indoor school record for pole vault by jumping 5.25 meters or 17’2.7” (feet and inches).
CMU’s previous record was 5.15 meters or 16’10.27,” which Ellis had set himself and allowed him to earn All-American Honors.
“It was a big deal,” Ellis said. “I knew that bar was set at 5.25 that this would make history for CMU track and field. I knew it would place me in the top two in the nation, and later I found out that it is the number one mark so far in DII. It is a relief as well, because now I can focus on bigger bars and work on my technique.”
Ellis began pole vaulting his freshman year of high school. Yet, that was not his only sport for he also was in football.
“I only trained for pole vault for three months out of the year, while most high school kids trained six to eight months of the year,” Ellis said. “Then when I got to college, I played football for Mesa for two years, so training was still only around six months compared to ten months of other college athletes. I retired from football fall of 2016.”
For pole vaulting, Ellis trains as both a track and a gymnast athlete. He explained that pole vault is about track speed until you jump, and then the body control is similar to the high bar in gymnastics. Ellis has to train for speed as well as gymnastics high bar work.
“The best and hardest thing about pole vaulting is the event itself,” Ellis said. “Getting to vault jump 17 feet into the air every day is one thing that never gets old. I love the adrenaline from every jump. The hardest thing is learning the technique. Many professional vaulters train about ten years before they have a breakthrough into becoming professional or top in their country. This is because the pole vault is such a complex event and takes many years to learn.”
Ellis is ready to take on the next bar, which is 5.35 meters. He mentioned that when he cleared the 5.25 meters bar and made that record, it was his worst technique and form so far in his season. Because of this, he believes that he can clear the 5.35 meters bar very soon.
“I can now chase for a national title in the vault,” Ellis said.
Ellis has high hopes for the whole track and field team like his teammate Jahr.
“I’m excited about the team because I think Mesa is going to place top three in the conference and take more than we’ve ever taken to nationals this year,” Ellis said. “It is exciting to see this program develop into a nationally competitive team.”
The CMU track and field team is now looking to the Western State Alumni Open, which will take place on Feb. 17 in Gunnison, Colo. Then the Mavericks will aim to dominate at the RMAC Indoor Track and Field Championships on Feb 23.