GULF SHORES, Ala. – Spring Arbor University freshman Katrina Tovar narrowly missed garnering All-American honors in the pole vault on Thursday at the 2016 NAIA Outdoor Track & Field National Championships, held at Mickey Miller Blackwell Stadium in Gulf Shores, Alabama.
Competing in her first-ever national meet, Tovar finished in ninth place among the 24 athletes competing in the event, falling short of All-American status by one spot. After easily clearing the first two heights, she was down to her final attempt at 11' 9.75" (3.60m) – her previous PR – before successfully clearing the bar. Tovar would then clear 11' 11.75" (3.65m) on her first attempt to become just the third athlete in school history to hit the mark.
Joining Tovar in the event was sophomore Bethany Kuenzer. Kuenzer, who made her third consecutive appearance in a championship meet, including this past indoor season, earned her best finish yet on the national stage. Following a 14th place finish as a freshman and 15th at the indoor championships in March, the Pittsford, Michigan native captured 12th place with a mark of 11' 9.75" (3.60m). Kuenzer successfully cleared the first three heights without a miss, but was ultimately unable to get over 3.65m.
"I am so proud of both Katrina and Bethany," said head coach Bryan Burk. "Katrina has done an amazing job seeing as she just picked up a pole vault just seven months ago. She has been a joy to watch. She does everything with so much joy and excitement that it is contagious."
"Bethany came out of this meet with a new national's-best," Burk added. "Even though it wasn't quite to her potential, she did a great job competing. I am excited to continue to watch these two develop over the next few years."
Freshman Joshua Smith is the third, and final, Spring Arbor student-athlete competing in the meet, and he will represent the Cougar men in the 110 meter hurdles trials on Friday, May 27. The event finals will be held on Saturday, May 28 at 3:30 p.m.