Robert Sutton/Alabama Athletics

Alabama senior Lakan Taylor was first woman to win national pole vault title

Lakan Taylor set Alabama pole vault record with her NCAA win

Alabama senior Lakan Taylor had a feeling she would go high, “but I wasn’t expecting to come out on top.” The Fort Worth native became the first women’s Alabama track and field performer to win an individual championship in pole vault when she took the indoor title Saturday at the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships Saturday at Texas A&M.

Alabama’s Lakan Taylor won the NCAA women’s pole vault championship on the final day of the 2017 NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships on Saturday at Texas A&M University’s Gilliam Indoor Track Stadium.

Additionally, Stacey Destin set school records in the high jump and pentathlon and became the first Alabama women’s athlete in 28 years to earn All-America honors in two individual events at one NCAA indoor championship on Friday.

Taylor cleared a school-record height of 14-7 1/4 (4.45m) to defeat 15 other competitors and earn Alabama’s first national championship – indoors or outdoors – in the women’s pole vault.

“When I cleared the second height (14-7 1/4) on the first attempt, it just felt really great,” Taylor said. “I just had to trust in my jump and trust in my coach. Michael Bartolina an outstanding coach and I wouldn’t be here without him or all the coaches I’ve had before. They got me to this moment. I had a great practice this week, I only jumped one time before the meet. It was a great jump. I knew I could get the heights I cleared but I wasn’t expecting to come out on top.”

Taylor had to clear two heights beyond the previous Alabama record of 14-3 1/2 (5.35m), set by Alexis Paine in 2014, to win the championship. Taylor cleared 14-5 1/4 (4.40m) on her first attempt to take the lead in the competition then followed that up with her winning clearance at 14.7 1/4 (4.45m), again on her first attempt, and defeated runner-up Annie Rhodes of Baylor based on fewest misses. In all, Taylor missed only one attempt at the first six heights before both she and Rhodes missed three times at 14-9 (4.50m) to end the competition.

Taylor’s previous best finish in the pole vault at the NCAA indoor championships was a sixth-place finish in 2015.

On Friday, Destin finished sixth in the pentathlon and fourth in the high jump to earn first-team All-America in both events. The sophomore joins Pauline Davis (1988, 1989), Flora Hyacinth (1987), and Liz Lynch (1986) as the only UA women to finish as All-America in two non-relay events at the same NCAA indoor meet. 

Destin scored a school-record 4,186 points in the pentathlon, her third Alabama-record total in three competitions this season. Her school-record high jump mark of 6-2 3/4 (1.90m) was recorded in the afternoon pentathlon. She would go on to finish fourth in the individual high jump in the evening with a clearance of 6-1 1/2 (1.87m), which equals the third-best mark in UA history.

Senior Quanesha Burks joined Destin on the award stand, finishing second in the women’s long jump with a mark of 22-0 3/4 (6.72m).

In men’s finals on Friday, junior Alfred Chelanga finished fifth in the 5,000 meters in 13:48.36, the fifth-fastest time in school history, and senior Kyle Felpel finished ninth in the shot put with a mark of 62-3 3/4 (18.99m), the fourth-best mark in school history. Felpel also recorded marks that rank sixth and eighth all-time at Alabama on Friday.

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