NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Senior pole vaulter Austin Laut, junior 1500m runner Allen Siegler and sophomore 1500m runner Nick Dahl head to Jacksonville, Fla., this week to compete in the NCAA East Preliminary Round for a place at the national championship.
For Laut this trip has been something of a standard annual meet – he has qualified in all of his four years at Yale, achieving a goal he set for himself when his first became a Bulldog. He said: "This competition is always an exciting and competitive meet. We get the opportunity to be with athletes from around the nation and compete at the highest level. There's nothing I look forward to more!"
With his new personal and school record of 5.31m Laut goes into competition seeded a career-high 11th, with the top ten qualifying. In an event as unpredictable as the pole vault, the added pressure of this being his last chance, combined with his belief that "training has been going well" in spite of the fact that he has had to balance it with the small matter of graduating should give him the confidence that he can finally reach the national championships.
Like Laut, qualification for this meet was a goal for Allen Siegler from the moment he entered college. However, following a prolific first cross country season he was badly injured, leaving him unable to "walk more than a mile without a break". It is a miracle he can even run. His steady comeback is testament to his love of the sport, hard work and the guidance of men's distance coach, Paul Harkins. Siegler is acutely aware of this, saying: "Qualifying for this meet means a lot to me because it's a reflection of everyone who helped me get here. I don't compete at this meet if not for family's love, my coaches' support, and my teammates' and friends' encouragement. I hope I'm able to make all these people proud this week."
Siegler's primary focus "is to make it to the second round by placing top 5 in my heat" -- only once that is achieved will he turn his attention to the final. And with his rapid acceleration and experience, anything is possible.
Nick Dahl won the Most Improved Athlete Award at the Track and Field Banquet two weeks ago. He deserved it, too: he was sidelined with a stress fracture for the entire cross country season, yet he goes into the race with a new PR of 3.44.58 that is only a second off the top 10. With multiple wins this season, he is rightly confident of his ability. Hinting at grander ambitions, he says that to him "qualifying for Regionals is a significant step in the right direction" as the meet "means I have a chance to race and compete with the finest athletes in Division I, and that I can get some exposure to a caliber of meet that I have only begun to enter into this season."
While it is true that this has been a breakout season, Dahl has never looked out of place at the front of the pack, and one suspects that is due to his understanding of the mental aspect of racing, and the importance of confidence. He says that "I want to race with the confidence that I belong in such a field and with an assertiveness when the moment comes to make my move and advance through each round".
With his renowned strength over the last 500m, expect to see Dahl getting out of his heat and giving everything in the final.
As the Bulldogs jet to Jacksonville, they should, as Dahl puts it, "feel uniquely positioned to give [their] best when [they] have the chance on Thursday". With finals and graduation behind them, and in the best form of their lives, they should have the confidence that their best will take them all the way to Austin and the biggest stage of all – the National Championships.
Report by Harrison Smith '22, Yale Sports Publicity
- Thursday, 6:00 p.m. First Round
- Saturday, 6:45 p.m. Quarterfinals
Austin Laut, Pole Vault
- Thursday, 4:30 p.m. First Round