Prep notebook: Nilsen wins another national championship

Once again, South Dakota junior Chris Nilsen was more than up for the task. 

This spring, the Park Hill product was tasked to defend his pole vault national title and NCAA meet record. To make things tougher, this year’s event consisted of a loaded field that made this competition one for the record books.

Nilsen even entered the event as the No. 2-ranked competitor, behind only LSU freshman Mondo Duplantis.

However, none of that seemed to faze Nilsen. Despite having to defend a national title in which he broke a 22-year old record last year, Nilsen had plenty to prove at the NCAA Division I Championships on Wednesday, June 5 at Mike A. Myers Stadium in Austin, Texas.

Much like he has most of his career, Nilsen prevailed to defend his championship in arguably the most anticipated pole vaulting event in NCAA history. 

Nilsen broke his record twice and edged Duplantis with a jump of 19 feet, 6 ½ inches for his third overall NCAA title. Duplantis, then-ranked No. 2 worldwide ahead of the event, topped out at 19-0.25.

SOUTH DAKOTA ATHLETICS  Park Hill graduate Chris Nilsen won another national championship in the pole vault event, the latest coming on Wednesday, June 5.


Park Hill graduate Chris Nilsen won another national championship in the pole vault event, the latest coming on Wednesday, June 5.

“I’m at a loss for words,” Nilsen said in a press release. “It’s an honor. I’m grateful and it makes it even better that I’m friends with all the guys. I think if I had been overseas at a meet in Europe or something and I had jumped high, I would have thought ‘OK, that’s kind of cool,’ but I get to share this experience with a bunch of college guys. It might be the best NCAA competition there’s ever been, but it’s also one of the best competitions that’s happened in pole vault in a long time — period. It was just fun.

“I think I have kind of been looking for that PR since last year, but to come here and do it at NCAAs and defend my title. That’s perfect.”

Last season, Nilsen went 18-4 ½ for the title. This time around seven competitors sailed over 18-8 ¼ in a three-hour long event. The top-3 placers were over 18-10 ¼, a new meet record. After securing the title, Nilsen attempted the overall NCAA record of 19-8 ½, but he came up empty.

Nilsen’s new PR and meet record placed him No. 2 in the world this season, and he’s now ranked No. 25 in the world record books on the IAAF’s all-time list.

With another title and a sixth All-American honor in the bag, Nilsen has strengthened his case for The Bowerman Trophy, an honor given to the most outstanding male and female track and field athletes each season. The Bowerman — the Heisman of collegiate track and field — winners will be announced in December.


Another Park Hill graduate made some noise at the Division I meet.

Oklahoma sophomore Papay Glaywulu received second team All-American honors with a 15th-place finish in the men’s triple jump.

Glaywulu jumped 52 feet, 3 ¾ inches on his way to his second straight All-America placing at the NCAA outdoor meet. He took 14th in the same event last year.


Former Park Hill left-handed pitcher Aaron Ashby has been promoted to low-A to high-A in the Milwaukee Brewers system, the club announced Saturday, June 8.

Ashby has been rewarded for a strong few months with the low-A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers where he struck out 80 batters while walking 28 across 61 innings and 10 starts. He owned a 3.54 ERA and a 3-4 record. 

Next up, Ashby will pitch for the high-A Carolina Mudcats, located in Zebulon, N.C. Ashby, who pitched collegiately at Crowder College in Neosho, Mo., was the Brewers’ fourth-round pick in 2018. He is the club’s ninth-ranked prospect, according to MLB Pipeline and No. 16 according to Baseball America.

Prior to his promotion, Ashby, who turned 21 on May 24, was selected to the Midwest League All-Star Game, which is scheduled for Tuesday, June 18.


Former Park Hill pitcher Dalton Moats remains with the Montgomery Biscuits in his second full year in the Tampa Bay Rays system since getting drafted in 2016.

Moats, a 6-foot-3, 210-pound lefty, has registered a 4.03 ERA and a 1-1 record in 16 appearances, two being starts. He’s struck out 26 batters and yielded 15 walks.

Moats, a 15th-round selection in June of 2016, was invited to the Rays’ spring training camp this March. He notched 11 saves for the high-A Stone Crabs in 2017.

The Delta State product racked up a 12-3 record and a 2.65 ERA in 112 innings pitched during his junior campaign before the Rays turned him into a professional.


Two area track and field athletes claimed first team All-American honors for the Northwest Missouri State Bearcats at the Division II meet May 23-25 in Kingsville, Texas.

Senior Kevin Schultz, of Platte County High School, and junior Jordan Hammond, of Park Hill South, both picked up first team All-American distinction for a second straight year.

Schultz was the runner-up in the high jump with a clearance of 7-2 ½, a six-place improvement from last year. Ethan Harris of Colorado Mesa cleared the same bar, but won the title on less misses (5-4).

Hammond earned fifth place in the women’s 400-meter hurdles, finishing in 1:01.24. She was runner-up a season ago.


Caleb Sneed completed his Southwest Baptist baseball career with an award-winning season.

The former Park Hill slugger collected two All-American honors after a strong senior campaign for the Division II Bearcats. 

Sneed, a left-handed hitter, batted .426 with a slugging percentage of .530 and an on-base percentage of .502 to help himself earn third-team spots on the All-American squads put together by the American Baseball Coaches’ Association and the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association. 

Sneed, a first-team All-MIAA selection, broke the SBU all-time hits record (268) by 19 hits and the program’s single season record for hits with 86. 

Southwest Baptist finished 19-31 overall and 10-23 in league play, its final season in the MIAA ahead of a switch to the Great Lakes Valley Conference, which takes effect for all sports in 2019-20.


Shelley Laures, a Benedictine College senior and Platte County grad, placed inside the top-15 in two events at the NAIA Championships May 24-26 in Gulf Shores, Alabama.

Laures compiled 4,539 points to finish 10th in the heptathlon. She won the javelin portion of the heptathlon with a heave of 140-09.

In the individual javelin event, Laures had a series-best toss of 131-46 for a 14th-place finish.