The orange bar was suspended 18 feet, 4 3/4 inches in the air, hanging between two poles on the edge of the Staley High School track. No American high school pole vaulter had ever surpassed its height.
Until Park Hill senior Christopher Nilsen did it this spring.
On a sunny weekend evening in May, Nilsen clipped the bar but watched it wiggle back into place, holding his hands in the air as he fell onto the mat.
This was how he celebrated a new national record. And this was how he highlighted a historic senior season.
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Nilsen graduated high school as the American record-holder with his vault of 18 feet, 4 3/4 inches. And he owns another state championship, too. One week later, he repeated as the Missouri Class 5 state champion, clearing 16 feet, 9 inches at Jefferson City High School.
Nilsen, who will attend South Dakota to continue his career, also broke a 36-year-old record at the prestigious Kansas Relays in April, putting the new mark at 17 feet, 6 1/2 inches at Rock Chalk Park in Lawrence.
“I’m just really grateful for everything that’s happened this season,” Nilsen said after his state championship. “I had some of my best memories out here, and I made some of my best friends right out here.”