After failing to advance in the NCAA track and field championships a year ago, two of Louisiana’s all-time top high school pole vaulters are back.
Southeastern Louisiana’s Devin King and Louisiana-Lafayette’s Morgann Leleux, two of the state’s more decorated high school vaulters, will go after national honors this week in the NCAA championships in Eugene, Oregon.
King, a sophomore, recorded the nation’s top mark this spring in winning the prestigious Texas Relays title with a personal-record of 18 feet, 8¼ inches — three weeks after placing third at the NCAA indoor championships.
Leleux, who had only an outdoor season of eligibility left after transferring from Georgia, also jumped a career-best of 14-10 in taking the Sun Belt Conference title for the Ragin’ Cajuns last month.
They, along with former John Curtis Christian School vaulter Dylan Duvio, who competes for Stanford, are the top state entrants for the NCAA semifinals and finals to be held Wednesday through Saturday at Hayward Field.
King and Duvio will compete Wednesday; a day later, Leleux wraps up a successful collegiate career that includes three Southeastern Conference titles and runner-up finishes in the 2012 NCAA indoor and outdoor championships while at Georgia.
There are among 15 entrants in the meet from state schools other than LSU and Louisiana natives after they made it through the NCAA East and West preliminary rounds last week.
King tied for ninth at the East prelims with a best of 17-4½, but there was no need to try and go higher after the 48-man field was whittled down to the 12 spots available for nationals.
King, who previously held the national high school indoor record, has won all four regular competitions he’s been in this outdoor season — including the Texas Relays and LSU Alumni Gold meet, where he won with an 18-1¾.
While the mark at the Texas Relays qualified King for the U.S. Olympic Trials to be held next month, that will have to wait as he goes for an NCAA title.
“I want to win,” he said. “Last year, I didn’t make it past (prelims) and that only added fuel to the flames.”
While it’s his first appearance in the NCAA finals, King has competed twice before at historic Hayward Field — which he said should help him.
“I think it’s a big deal,” he said. “Just knowing the environment up there and having jumped there before, I think I have a benefit. I think it should be easier to jump.”
Southeastern coach Sean Brady thinks King has a chance after a solid outdoor season following his third-place finish at indoor nationals.
“Technically, last year was a transition year for him,” Brady said. “He came out the other side, and the demons and issues facing him last year have been chased away and are gone. He’s just had a tremendous year.
“At indoor nationals, he was jumping at a bar to win but it just didn’t happen. To win a national championship, you have to be a great athlete and the stars have to line up that day. But he was on the (awards) podium, and that was great motivation for him coming to the outdoor season.”
Leleux, a New Iberia native, had the fourth-best jump in the nation this spring with her Sun Belt-winning clearance of 14-10 after taking the LSU Alumni Gold title in April at 14-9½.
A five-time national junior champion and national high school record-holder before going to Georgia, Leleux will be trying to go out in style in her first NCAA outdoor championships since 2013.
One year after taking second at nationals, she was 13th and redshirted in the 2014 outdoor season after having surgery to repair a detached retina. A year ago, she finished 13th in the East prelims and didn’t go to Eugene.
Duvio will be making his third consecutive NCAA championships appearance. He finished third last season with a leap of 18- ½, just 1¼ inches off his PR of 18-1¾.