Stefanídi, Morris Bring Aerial Show to Pre Classic

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Prefontaine Classic

The world’s two best women’s pole vaulters are bringing their high-flying rivalry from the Olympics and World Championships to the Prefontaine Classic.

Katerína Stefanídi and Sandi Morris top a star-studded field in the Pre Classic’s first announced event of 2018.  The pole vault is a Hayward Field favorite, and vault lovers in the fabled East Grandstands are in for a treat as every confirmed entrant is among the world’s top 10 for 2017 as ranked by Track & Field News.

Katerína Stefanídi, 28, is the reigning Olympic and World Championships gold medalist, becoming the only Greek athlete with golds in both of track & field’s biggest meets.  She has dominated the vault scene the last two years, including a pair of IAAF Diamond League crowns and owning an undefeated streak that dates back just over a year.  Stefanídi last year became the most recent member of the exclusive 16-foot (4.88) club at the Millrose Games, a meet she won last week for the fourth straight year.

Local fans remember Stefanídi back to her college days.  She won the 2012 NCAA title as a Stanford senior just a month after she set her collegiate best of 14-8¼ (4.48) to win the Pac-12 in her most recent competition at Hayward Field. Continuing her affinity for vaulting in Oregon, she won her first major medal with a bronze at 2016 World Indoor at Portland.

Sandi Morris, 25, is America’s top vaulter with silver medals in the Rio Olympics and last year’s World Championships.  She is the last person to beat Stefanídi (early February last year indoors) and earned T&FN’s No. 1 world ranking in 2016.  After losing to Stefanídi on misses in Rio, Morris became the third member of the uber-exclusive 5-meter club, scaling the 16-4¾ (5.00) barrier at the IAAF Diamond League’s Van Damme Memorial in Brussels and she remains the IDL record holder.

Morris’s career took off in her senior year at Arkansas in 2015, winning the NCAA Indoor crown and outdoors qualifying for her first international team.  At the Beijing World Championships, she finished just out of the medals in a tie for 4th.  She has medaled every time since, first at the 2016 World Indoor (silver) followed by Rio and London last year.

Head-to-head, Stefanídi owns a career 17-9 edge over Morris.

British record holder Holly Bradshaw, 26,  was 7th as a 19-year-old in the 2012 Pre Classic competition.  Bradshaw bettered that performance in London with a 6th-place tie in the Olympics, which she upped to 5th in Rio.  She was No. 4 in last year’s T&FN world rankings.

Two-time Olympian Lisa Ryzih, 29, of Germany, reached her highest T&FN ranking of No. 5 last year.  She was 5th in last year’s London Worlds, her third straight finals.  A former World Youth and World Junior gold medalist, she was silver medalist behind Stefanidi in last year’s European Indoor Championships and the 2016 European Championships.

Nichole Büchler of Switzerland is the oldest in the field at 34.  A three-time Olympian, she reached the world’s elite level in 2016 with a 4th-place finish at the World Indoor and 6th in Rio.  She ranked No. 4 in the 2016 T&FN world rankings and No. 8 last year.  Her PR 15-9 (4.80) came in the Portland World Indoor, where she matched the same height Stefanídi cleared to earn bronze.

Canadian record holder Alysha Newman is the youngest in the field at 23.  After taking 7th in the London World Championships, she saved her best for last with a 15-7 (4.75) PR for 3rd in the IAAF Diamond League final at Brussels behind Stefanídi and Morris, matching the same height as Morris.  Her No. 7 position in last year’s T&FN world rankings is the highest ever by a Canadian vaulter.  As a collegian, Newman was NCAA runner-up for Miami in 2016 at Hayward Field.

American Katie Nageotte, 26, came out of international nowhere to rate as the No. 6 vaulter in the world by T&FN.  She was NCAA Division II champion at Ohio’s Ashland University in 2013, first scaled 15 feet in 2016, and was runner-up to Morris at the U.S. Indoor last year.  At the recent Millrose Games, she lost to Stefanídi on the countback as both cleared 15-5½ (4.71).

Anzhelika Sidorova, 26, will be competing as an authorized neutral athlete.  She is the 3rd-highest-ever Russian vaulter with her 15-11¼ (4.86) set earlier this month in Moscow.  Sidorova is enjoying her best vaulting since earning silver at the 2014 World Indoor Championships as well as European gold at the 2014 outdoor and 2015 indoor Championships.

Women’s Pole Vault Personal Best
Sandi Morris (USA) 16-4¾ (5.00)
Katerína Stefanídi (Greece) 16-1¼ (4.91)
Holly Bradshaw (Great Britain) 15-11¾ (4.87)
Anzhelika Sidorova (ANA) 15-11¼ (4.86)
Nicole Büchler (Switzerland) 15-9 (4.80)
Katie Nageotte (USA) 15-7¼ (4.76)
Lisa Ryzih (Germany) 15-7 (4.75)
Alysha Newman (Canada) 15-7 (4.75)