Special to the Citizen
Fresh off an indoor national championship, South Dakota pole vaulter Chris Nilsen is currently the one to beat in the early going of the outdoor season.
Nilsen, a junior and Park Hill graduate, had the nation’s top mark with a jump of 19 feet, 0.25 inches in the pole vault.
On Saturday, April 20, he vaulted 19-1 to achieve the highest mark in the world after a winning vault at the Beach Invitational at Long Beach State.
His mark is now 1 centimeter higher than Kurtis Marschall of Australia, the previous world leader in the IAAF standings.
The defending national champion, has the highest mark in the NCAA by two inches.
On Tuesday, April 23, Nilsen was named the Summit League athlete of the week for the 20th time in his career.
He joins Lawrence Johnsen as the only two vaulters to have three jumps of 19-1 or higher in their collegiate career. Nilsen’s personal best of 19-2 ¾ from last spring ranks him as the NCAA’s fourth-best performer outdoors. He has four of the top-14 marks all-time in NCAA outdoor history.
Nilsen reached the 19-0.25 mark in front of an announced crowd of 21,000 fans at the Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays on March 30 in Austin, Texas. It was the second best jump in the world and is the seventh time he’s reached 19 feet during his career.
Nilsen won the Texas Relays event with the jump, his second such win in his career. He also received Summit League honors for his efforts.
Nilsen went 18-8.75 to win his home event, the South Dakota Challenge, and break the facility record on April 6. He tried to go 19-1 to top his nation-leading mark, but he missed on all three attempts.
CECIL LEE TO JOIN ZEILS
AT TRUMAN STATE
The number of Park Hill Trojans playing for Truman State will go up even more.
After Nic Zeil signed earlier this year to join older brother Tanner Zeil at the Kirksville school, the Bulldogs will also be adding Cecil Lee. The 2018 Park Hill graduate attended Butler County Community College to open this school year, but has opted to transfer to the Division II program.
Lee helped the Trojans win two district titles but wasn’t playing basketball at the junior college in El Dorado, Kan. The 6-foot-5 forward transferred schools at semester and will be ready to play next winter for the Bulldogs, who were 14-15 and 8-8 in the Great Lakes Valley Conference this season.
He said he expects to add weight to his 180-pound frame to be a combo guard/forward for Truman State, who is coached by Jeff Horner.
“I do really love it in Missouri and I was thinking academically, this school is so academically inclined and so good,” Lee said. “It will be one of the best options for me to pursue.
“I wanted to start playing college basketball, that is the main reason. It is kind of weird practicing on my own. I won’t say it is annoying, because I love basketball, but I miss the competitiveness.”
Tanner Zeil, a 6-7 redshirt sophomore, contributed 2.8 points and 1.6 rebounds per game in 8.2 minutes per contest this season. He made 14 of 40 3-point attempts.
Nic Zeil, a 6-8 forward, just completed his senior season at Park Hill. He was selected and played in the DiRenna All-Star Game on April 12, scoring six points with two 3-pointers, four rebounds and a block.
AREA WRESTLERS COMPETE
Three Park Hill products and Matthew Schmitt of Platte County High School competed on college wrestling’s biggest stage last month.
Missouri senior John Erneste capped his collegiate career with his first All-America finish at 133 pounds at the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships March 21-23 at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, Pa.
The Park Hill graduate placed sixth at the national meet, capping a 22-7 season that also included a MAC title. Erneste, ranked eighth, posted consecutive blankings in the first two rounds, winning 8-0 and 4-0 against a pair of wrestlers (Derek Spann of Buffalo and DJ Fehlman of Lock Haven) ranked just inside the top-25.
Then, Erneste fell to top-ranked Daton Fix of Oklahoma State via an 11-3 major decision. He then went 2-1 in consolation matches before falling to No. 7 Austin DeSanto of Iowa 11-6 in the fifth-place match.
Erneste recorded 10 pins on the campaign, while helping the Tigers to a sixth-place national finish and a fifth straight top-10 finish.
Additionally, Erneste was named to the all-MAC academic team for a third straight year. He owned a 3.706 GPA as he pursued his MBA this year.
The other two Park Hill grads that wrestled at nationals were Ohio State’s Ke-Shawn Hayes and George Mason’s Colston DiBlasi, both juniors.
Hayes played a part in the Buckeyes’ national runner-up finish. Hayes, ranked 11th at 157 pounds, won his opener with a 7-1 decision against Zac Carson of Ohio before dropping his next two matches to end his tournament run, falling 14-2 to Kaleb Young of Iowa and 7-1 to Taleb Rahmani of Pittsburgh.
DiBlasi went 0-2 as an at-large bid for the Patriots. He took a 5-1 decision in the preliminary round before a 14-4 major decision loss in the first round, falling to Northwestern’s Tyler Morland and Arizona State’s Joshua Shields, respectively.
DiBlasi, who was 29-15 this winter, was named to the Virginia Sports Information Directors All-State Team at the end of the season.
DiBlasi finished the campaign with 17 pins, the second most in Division I behind Central Michigan’s Matt Stencel (18).
“Colston is one of the most exciting wrestlers in the country and we are excited to watch him continue to grow his senior year,” George Mason coach Frank Beasley said in a press release.
Schmitt, a sophomore, lost a heartbreaker in the wrestleback round in the 133-pound bracket. No. 31 Mason Pengilly of Stanford topped Schmitt 4-3, securing a point late in the third period for the win.
A two-time national qualifier, Schmitt won his first round match against CSU Bakersfield’s Sean Nickell before falling to top-seeded Fix 9-3 in the second round. Schmitt finished the season 18-8.
Ronnie Bell impressed in the University of Michigan’s spring football game on April 13.
Bell, a sophomore-to-be from Park Hill, caught a pass on a crossing route from quarterback Shea Patterson and made a man miss before running away from the defense for a 49-yard score. He ran 44 yards to the end zone after catching the pass from Patterson.
“He played a huge role this spring, and had a huge play on third down today, taking it 120 yards for a touchdown,” Patterson said about Bell after the game.
Dylan McCaffrey, another Michigan quarterback, also had good things to say about Bell, the Wolverines’ 2018 offensive rookie of the year.
“The sky’s the limit for that kid,” McCaffrey said. “You saw what he did out there today. He made one of the craziest plays I think I’ve ever seen. I’m just really excited to see where he goes on offense.”
Bell made eight catches for 145 yards and two touchdowns last year.
SNEED BREAKS SBU RECORD
Park Hill graduate Caleb Sneed broke the Southwest Baptist University hits record in the Bearcats’ 11-6 loss to Missouri Southern on Friday, April 15 in Bolivar, Mo.
Sneed, a 6-foot-1, 230-pound senior shortstop, hit a single back up the middle in the fifth inning of Game 1, his 240th career hit. The milestone put him past Chance Wolfe on the SBU career hits chart.
He finished 3-for-5 in the opener from the leadoff spot before going 1-for-4 in a 10-0 loss in Game 2.