ASU’s Clarke wins fourth straight shot put title

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arizona State senior Jordan Clarke took one step closer to history on Friday, winning his fourth consecutive NCAA shot put championship at the 2013 NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships.

Despite a minor hand injury suffered early this season, Clarke dominating his competition at the Randal Tyson Track Center with a winning mark of 20.50m (67 feet, 3.25 inches) that was just shy of his season’s best in the event.  The mark was well over a foot better than his closest competition, Kole Weldon of Texas Tech.

The latest NCAA title follows Clarke’s victories at the 2012 indoor and outdoor championships and the 2011 outdoor championship. If he wins this year’s outdoor title, he would join Kansas’ Karl Salb (1969-71) as the second person in NCAA history to win five consecutive shot put titles.

ASU has won nine of the last 11 men’s NCAA shot put title — all under the tutelage of throws coach David Dumble. Olympian Ryan Whiting won five titles in his ASU career before passing the torch to Clarke.

In the women’s long jump, senior Christabel Nettey set a new career best with a leap of 6.55m (21-06.00) in a runner-up finish, her best ever at an NCAA championship.

Oddly enough, Nettey’s leap was equal to the winning mark, which was shared by Kansas’ Andrea Geubelle.  However, in the event of a tie, the tiebreak goes to the next best jump, and Geubelle held the advantage with a second-best jump of 6.53m (21-05.25) to Nettey’s 6.44m (21-01.50).

Nonetheless, Nettey became a first-team All-American indoors for the first time in her career while also extending her school record in the event and earning eight valuable points for ASU in the team standings.

In the men’s pole vault, junior Derick Hinch took sixth overall, matching his career best with a clearance of 5.50m (18-00.50).  Hinch entered the competition as the 10th seed but remained alive long enough to earn his first All-American honor indoors.

The height matched Hinch’s second-best at ASU and gave the Sun Devils three points they weren’t expecting heading into the meet.

Early in the day, Chelsea Cassulo posted an impressive fourth-place finish in the women’s weight throw despite coming into the day ranked 14th in the field in the category.
Cassulo had two career bests in the event, with a best mark on the day of 21.23m (69-08.00). It was the third-best mark in ASU history in the event and Cassulo’s first indoor All-American honor.

The heartbreak of the day came in the women’s 800-meter prelim finals.  Shelby Houlihan, who entered the meet with the seventh-fastest time in the country, found herself in the wrong place at the wrong time, as a tumble in front of her left her with no place to go with 400 meters left.

After falling to the track, Houlihan got back up and ran down several competitors on her way to a fifth-place finish in the heat in 2:07.26. The time was 12th overall and did not advance her to the next round. An official protest was filed but not accepted. Houlihan will earn second-team All-American honors nonetheless.

Following the first day of competition the ASU men sit fifth overall with 13 points while the women are third with 13 points as well.