Kayla Caldwell the national runner up in the pole vault on first day of NCAA championships

Kayla Caldwell the national runner up in the pole vault on first day of NCAA championships

Provided by Hillsdale

March 9, 2012 - Hillsdale College junior Kayla Caldwell came oh-so-close to being crowned a national champion. But being a national runner up is still an incredible accomplishment.

Caldwell finished second in the nation in the pole vault at Friday's portion of the NCAA Division II Women's Indoor Track and Field Championships, being held at Minnesota State-Mankato this weekend.

Three Hillsdale College women's track athletes earned All-American status on the first day of competition: Caldwell and teammate Chelsea Wackernagel (7th) were among the top eight in the pole vault, while Kathy Dirksen earned her second career honor with a seventh-place finish in the weight throw.

Junior Amanda Putt qualified for Saturday's finals in both the 800 and the mile run. Teammate Jennifer Shaffer recorded the fifth-fastest time in qualifying for the 800 meter run, and will join Putt in chasing All-American recognition Saturday.

On the men's side of the meet, sophomore Maurice Jones qualified fourth in the 400 meter dash and will compete Saturday in the finals. He is aiming for his first career All-American honor.

Caldwell cleared 4.00 meters, good for second overall behind Kristen Hixson of Grand Valley State. It was a signature performance for an athlete who battled through injuries last year and has come back in tremendous fashion during this 2011-12 indoor season. She now has four career All-American honors to her credit.

Wackernagel has also enjoyed an outstanding senior indoor season, and notched her first career All-American honor by clearing 3.80 meters. Five of the top seven pole vaulters in the nation hail from the GLIAC, easily rated as the best women's indoor track conference in the nation.

Dirksen doesn't have to be reminded of that last fact, as she was part of a weight-throw event chock full of GLIAC competitors. Her best mark in the weight throw was 18.41 meters. An incredible seven of the eight All-Americans in the women's weight throw came from GLIAC schools.

As a team, Hillsdale stands in third place overall at the conclusion of the first day of competition with 12 points.