May 28, 2010
Six weeks ago, Shea Kearney could not wait for the track season to end.
Now, he's thrilled to extend it an additional two weeks.
Completing the long comeback from broken ankle, the sophomore from Phoenix cleared a personal-best 5.25 m/17 2 ¾ at Mike A. Myers Track And Soccer Stadium in Austin to join defending NCAA champion Jason Colwick in earning a berth in the NCAA Championships in Eugene, Oregon June 9-1.2.
Colwick assured himself of the opportunity to defend his title by easily clearing 5.30/17-4 ¾ on his only attempt of the day, but just as notable for him was the effort of his teammate.
"This was a nervous meet for me, but I am very happy with the results," Colwick said. "I have a lot of great memories of jumping here, so I didn't want to end it with a bad one. I'm feeling great, but the real story of this day is Shea making it as well. I can't imagine (having a pair of Owls qualify in the pole vault) has happened that often," Colwick added.
As few as two months ago, Kearney seemed an unlikely candidate for a ticket to Eugene. He was mired in a difficult season, as he made his way back from a broken left ankle that eventually required tendon reconstruction surgery. In a sport so dependent on technical perfection, the lack of confidence in his rebuilt ankle was taking its toll.
"This was the longest season I have ever been through. Indoor was rough and the outdoor season was not going much better. Nothing was working, but I kept going and suddenly at the C-USA Outdoor meet things started to come together," he said.
Kearney, who won the C-USA Indoor pole vault title in 2008, served notice that he had returned to form by finishing second to Colwick at the 2010 C-USA Outdoor in Orlando in mid-May with a vault of 5.20m/17-00.75.
Kearney earned his berth by clearing 5.25/17 2 ¾ on his first attempt at that height, executing Rice vaulting coach David Bulter's strategy to perfection.
"Coming into the meet, we felt like we knew exactly what it would take to get in, and we set up the meet knowing that it probably would take making 5.25 on the first attempt to get in," Kearney said. "There were guys who cleared it on their second try who did not make it," he noted.
The additional two weeks to the season, once hardly plausible, are now an assignment Kearney relishes.
"Now, I feel great. This has gone from being the worst season of my career, to the one where I made the big show," he said. "It will be great to be going with Jason, to be part of the team and represent Rice," Kearney stated.