12 February, 2020

Eugene: Recordsetters Duplantis & Kendricks Top Pre Classic's Vault Field Royalty

  • Armand "Mondo" Duplantis at the Pre Classic 2019 in Stanford © Victah Sailer

Vault fans can’t wait for the royal field assembled for the Prefontaine Classic’s return to a brand-new Hayward Field.

Even the vaulters can’t wait. Armand “Mondo” Duplantis and two-time reigning World Champion Sam Kendricks top an amazing field that includes every Olympic and World Championships medalist since the Rio Games. Both set records Saturday, with Duplantis taking down the six-year-old world record of Renaud Lavillenie with a 20-2¾ (6.17) clearance in Toruń, Poland; several hours later in France, Kendricks set the American indoor best of 19-9 (6.02).

Mondo Duplantis is off to a scorching start this year. He kicked off the season with a narrow miss at the world record height in his first meet. His huge clearances there had vaulting aficionados scrambling for comparisons to legendary the Sergey Bubka, the only member besides Lavillenie in the 20-foot club (6.10). That is, until Mondo raised the absolute world record to 6.17 last weekend.

The 20-year-old Duplantis said “It’s something that I’ve wanted since I was three years old. It’s a big year, but it’s a good way to start it.”

Mondo’s highlight reel includes winning the 2018 European Championships, when he set three PRs for the first time and ultimately cleared 19-10¼ (6.05), which at the time was the highest outdoor performance since the turn of the century.

A favorite worldwide, Mondo’s connection to the Pre Classic is as good as it gets. In 2017 as a high school junior from Louisiana he made his Diamond League debut here (fourth), returned as a prep senior in ’18 (runner-up) and last year recorded his first win on the DL circuit. That victory gave the Pre Classic its first set of father-son winners (Greg Duplantis, his dad and co-coach with mom Helena, won in 1992).

Sam Kendricks, 27, is the two-time reigning World Champion, winning in Doha and London. He also won Diamond League crowns in the same years. In the eyes of the world’s best experts, he is riding a three-year run as world No. 1 by Track & Field News – the longest streak in the pole vault by an American since Bob Richards had seven from 1949-55.

Just a couple hours after Mondo’s WR, Kendricks got into some recordbreaking of his own, jumping 19-9 (6.02) in Rouen, France to break the American indoor record set by Jeff Hartwig in 2002. Kendricks has won every U.S. championship he’s entered since 2014, but last year’s in Des Moines might have been the most special yet. With victory already secured, he had the bar set at an American record height of 19-10½ (6.06) and his clearance – the highest ever outdoors in the U.S. – set off a celebratory dogpile as his rivals shared in the joy.

Sam, who is coached by his dad Scott, earned Olympic bronze in Rio – the first Olympic vault medal by a U.S. man since 2004. He was then 23 and it made him the event’s youngest American Olympic medalist since Jan Johnson’s bronze in 1972 at age 21. This will be Pre Classic No. 6 for Kendricks, a two-time winner who has never finished lower than third here.

Renaud Lavillenie, 33, is one of the event’s treasures and his appearances in the U.S. are always special. Fortunately he is set to contest his eighth consecutive Pre Classic. The former world record holder at 20-2½ (6.16) earlier this winter recorded his 148th meet with at least one clearance of 5.80 meters (19-0¼) or better (Bubka has the most with 183). Next week he will host his annual “All Star Perche” meet in Clermont-Ferrand, France, with both Mondo and Kendricks on the guest list.

The 4-time Pre Classic champ won his last title in 2016 while competing in a University of Oregon singlet. He holds the Hayward Field record at 19-10¼ (6.05) set while winning the 2015 Pre Classic. Lavillenie was among the first to congratulate Mondo on breaking his WR, tweeting “This is your day! Congrats to my baby bro!”

Poland’s Piotr Lisek, 27, was ranked No. 3 in the world last year by T&FN after earning bronze in Doha behind Kendricks and Duplantis. In 2017 he was a notch higher at No. 2 after winning silver in London – the best major performance by a Pole since Wladyslaw Kozakiewicz won the 1980 Moscow Olympics.

Lisek, who owns the indoor and outdoor Polish records, has been world ranked every year since 2014 and this will mark his fifth consecutive appearance at the Pre Classic, having taken third in each of the last three years.

Polish countrymate Pawel Wojciechowski, who will turn 31 the day before this year’s Pre Classic, was next in last year’s T&FN world rankings at No. 4. The 2018  European Indoor champion, he won the 2011 World Championships when he was 22.

Brazil’s Thiago Braz, 26, won the 2016 Olympic gold, becoming the first from his country to claim Olympic gold in this sport since 1984, when Joaquim Cruz won the 800 in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.

This will be a homecoming of sorts for Cole Walsh, 24. The Arizona native was runner-up to Kendricks in last year’s U.S. Championships in Des Moines and finished 10th in Doha en route to his first T&FN world rankings appearance at No. 6.

Walsh last competed at Hayward Field in 2017, taking fifth for Oregon in the NCAA Championships. His first competition at Hayward Field came in 2014, when as a freshman he won the U.S. U20 (Junior) title, securing a spot on the national team for the World U20 Championships, also held at Hayward Field. 

Men’s Pole VaultPersonal Best
Mondo DuplantisSweden20-2¾ /6.17m
Renaud LavillenieFrance20-2½ / 6.16m
Sam KendricksUSA19-10½ / 6.06m
Thiago BrazBrazil19-9¼ / 6.03m
Piotr LisekPoland19-9 / 6.02m
Pawel WojciechowskiPoland19-5½ / 5.93m
Cole WalshUSA19-1½ / 5.83m

The 8th spot is reserved for the athlete vaulting the best just prior to Pre.

Tickets for the 46th annual edition of the Prefontaine Classic, to be held June 6-7 at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore., will be available in early March. Details will be posted on www.preclassic.com and eugene.diamondleague.com.

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Prefontaine Classic