Ellerbee wins national pole vault title

By Christian Cataldo

Bronco student-athlete Justin Ellerbee has been crowned the national pole vaulting champion at the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division II Track & Field National Championships in Allendale, Michigan.

Ellerbee, a senior pole vaulter, had his career-best performance on the biggest stage of the season, earning him the national title. He is the first pole vaulter in Cal Poly Pomona history to secure a national title. He’s also the first track and field national champion for the Broncos since 1994, when Devon Edwards won the 400 meter race.

Ellerbee was overcome with joy with his performance.

“I was kind of nervous going into it, with it being the end of the season and all but after the competition started going everything felt good,” said Ellerbee. “After I made that last bar I was just ecstatic, it was great.”

Ellerbee broke his own CPP pole vault record with a mark of 17-6.5.

“Last year I kind of did this at conference and faded off a little bit at nationals,” said Ellerbee. “I really wanted to peak at nationals this year and it worked out perfectly, timing wise.”

Eight athletes in total represented the CPP track and field team at nationals, held over Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Junior pole vaulter Rodger Mantor also excelled, placing fourth in the competition with his personal best mark of 16-10.75. The last of the CPP vaulters, senior Austin Allen, placed 11th with his mark of 16-2.75.

Mantor and Ellerbee both earned All-American honors this season, with Ellerbee also earning College Sports Information Directors of America Academic All-District honors for the third season in a row.

“Academics has always been first when it comes to college with pole vaulting coming in a close second, but academics has always been a little bit more important just for future careers,” said Ellerbee.

Head coach Octavious Gillespie-Bennett talked about the strong pole-vaulting team he had this season.

“All year long they just took care of business,” said Gillespie-Bennett. “It seemed like every week one of the three guys jumped pretty well. We always had at least one highlight coming from our team because those guys were always on it all year.

You can see that they just fed off each other and they’re great teammates [that] support each other. It’s awesome to watch.”

Rounding out the Bronco competitors for the men’s team, senior sprinter Louis Martin III placed 13th overall in the 100-meter dash prelims with a time of 10.63, barely missing a spot in the finals. Sophomore distance runner Mark Huizar also placed 13th overall in the 5000 meter run with a time of 15:01.77.

One the women’s side, senior thrower Tiffany Gray, senior Erin Zwinger and junior distance runner Lizette Huerta represented the Broncos in Allendale.

Gray placed 19th in the shot put event with a mark of 44-0.5. Zwinger placed 18th overall in the heptathlon with 4,337 points. Zwinger earned 735 points in the 200-meter event on Thursday, and 623 points in the 800-meter race on Friday. Lastly, Huerta finished 17th in 1500 meter run prelims with a time of 4:38.17, which wasn’t enough to get her a spot in the finals.

Gillespie-Bennett reflected about his team’s season.

“I’m incredibly proud of this season,” said Gillespie-Bennett. “Division II track and field is getting harder with more schools coming into Division II, and [it is] raising the standard of what it takes to qualify for a national meet.

“For us to get eight to the national meet this year when this has been the hardest to qualify as long as I’ve been around in Division II, we had a really nice year this year. I’m really happy with how everything went.”

Ellerbee

Courtesy Bronco Athletics

Ellerbee

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