GREAT FALLS – What a homecoming for Great Falls native Keaton Brady.
The 2017 pole vault all-American got it on the track that he had competed on since middle school at the Frontier Open at Memorial Stadium.
His only competitor was the bar and the mark that he knew he needed to earn a trip to nationals in Gulf Shores, Alabama, just over 15 feet. He missed the mark last week in Missoula by a hair vaulting 14-feet-11, but Thursday on the newly refurbished track, he quickly surpassed the NAIA B standard and then attempted the NAIA A standard of 15-feet-5.
On his second attempt, he cleared the bar with ease, clenching his fists in excitement as he fell back to the mat. He wasn't done though. He surpassed his personal best and moved into a tie for the third-best mark in the NAIA to date with a vault of 16-feet-0.75.
"Keaton had a really great week of practice and it was really encouraging," coach Harry Clark said. "I knew he was going to get it done today. He got on his stick today and felt and looked really good."
Brady wasn't the only Carroll athlete to break through and qualify at the final regular-season meet of the year. The Carroll men's and women's 4x800-meter relay teams both hit the NAIA B mark to earn a trip to Gulf Shores with impressive performances, especially for the Carroll women who ran the race unopposed and beat their previous best time of the season, 9:36.80, by more than 12 seconds and currently are ranked 13th in the NAIA with a time of 9:24.17.
On the men's side, Carroll avenged a loss to Rocky Mountain earlier in the season, putting up a time of 7:44.50 and defeating Rocky by nearly 10 seconds.
"The girls put on a show today and did it all by themselves. It was a lot of fun to watch," Clark said. "The guys just missed it when we ran in our meet at home so it is great to see them get over the hump and qualify for the meet. There are four seniors on that relay team so I am excited that they all get a chance to make one final trip to nationals."
Samantha Mundel improved her 1,500-meter time and is now ranked 11th in the NAIA and Garrett Kocab missed the NAIA B standard in the discus by just five inches. The Saint earned event wins in 25 of the 33 events Thursday.
"We are excited to get everything really worked out," Clark said. "To see these kids on the bubble just crush it was really a lot of fun. Now we play the waiting game to see how the rest of the country shakes out and where we sit going into nationals."