Duplantis

Record-breaking brothers Mondo (left) and Antoine Duplantis.

At 3:15 p.m. on Saturday, Antoine Duplantis stepped into the batter’s box inside Baum-Walker Stadium. Thick grey clouds blocking out the sun and rain from the night before had left the temperature somewhere around 60 degrees. Duplantis wore long sleeves. 

Duplantis, a senior right fielder, had moved into second place on LSU’s all-time hits list earlier that day. But he had popped out with a runner in scoring position his previous at-bat, banging his helmet as LSU missed a chance to cut into Arkansas’ two-run lead. The Tigers had lost five straight games. 

Less than two miles up Razorback Road, a street that cuts through the west side of Arkansas’ campus, Mondo Duplantis prepared for the finals of the Southeastern Conference Outdoor Track and Field Championships.

Mondo had already established himself as one of the best pole vaulters in the country, if not the world, during his freshman season. He aimed for the men’s collegiate outdoor record.

Before Mondo shut down his phone, his older brother turned on a fastball with two runners on base.

Antoine didn’t make solid contact. He cursed as he trotted down the first base line. But the ball carried through the cold wind. Arkansas’ right fielder kept backing up. The home run dropped behind the right-field wall. 

With one swing, Antoine had given LSU a 3-2 lead. The Tigers hung on to win, snapping their losing streak and gaining a little momentum heading to the final week of the regular season.

“This was unbelievably huge,” Antoine said. “I think this is going to jumpstart us for the rest of the year. We've got to keep building off this.” 

Mondo heard about the home run, then he turned off his phone to get ready for his own competition.

Five hours later, at 8:15 p.m., Mondo grabbed his pole inside John McDonnell Field and leaned back onto one foot. 

The temperature had dipped as the sun set, but Mondo went for the record, held since 1996 by Lawrence Johnson from Tennessee, in less than ideal weather.

“The conditions at the next two meets might be worse,” coach Dennis Shaver said. “We're just thankful it wasn't raining, and we were able to vault outdoors so he could have a shot at the collegiate record.”

As Mondo sprinted down the track, he had attempted the record height — 6.00 meters (19 feet, 8¼ inches) — five times this season, including twice on Saturday, and missed. He had already won first place, his individual title pushing LSU into a six-point lead, but he had asked to raise the bar. 

Mondo stuck the end of his pole into the track and hurled himself through the air. He twisted as he approached the bar and curved his body over it. Once he fell onto the mat below, Mondo dropped to his knees. He yelled as he pumped his arms. The height would have placed him second at the 2016 Olympics. 

“I was running out of time to get that,” Mondo said. “It's nice to get that off my shoulders and be able to focus on winning.”

After he broke the record, Mondo went into the stands with the rest of his teammates. The men’s competition ended, and LSU won its first SEC men’s outdoor title since 1990. As the women raced their final events, Mondo stood amongst his teammates.

He will soon begin preparing for a national title in the pole vault. At the same time, Antoine will try to lead LSU toward a run at its seventh baseball championship.

“I had my brother to hype me up a couple hours prior,” Mondo said in the stands. “Right before I turned my phone off I got to see that go-ahead, three-run bomb that he hit.

“I always get a bunch of texts when 'Twanie does something great, and uh…”

Mondo turned around. The standings for the men’s pole vault had appeared on the video screen, with his name and his record above all the rest.

“Good job, Mondo!” one teammate said, clapping. “Good job, boy!”

Then Mondo ran off. His backpack bounced behind him as he left the stands, moving toward a celebration that lasted well into the night.


Follow Wilson Alexander on Twitter, @whalexander_.