Chris Nilsen, Mondo Duplantis Make History In New Mexico

On a clear night in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the Great Southwest Classic was a tale of two pole vaulters: Chris Nilsen, the outdoor national high school record holder at 18-4.75, and Armand "Mondo" Duplantis, the indoor national high school record holder at 18-0.5.

Spectators at the University of New Mexico were anticipating an 18-foot clearance and, for the first time in prep history, they saw not one, but two vaulters clear the vaunted barrier. Nilsen won the competition in 18-3, and Duplantis placed runner-up in 18-0.

Watch their historic dual in the video below:

Nilsen and Duplantis are the first high school pole vaulters in history to clear 18 feet in the same competition.

"It's a really big confidence boost to get over 18 feet for the third time this season. It's telling me I'm getting consistent, which is really a great feeling," Nilsen said. "I got on some big-boy poles and I'm definitely going back to the drawing board on technique to come back better than ever."

Nilsen, a University of South Dakota-bound senior from Park Hill High School in Missouri, and Duplantis, a sophomore from Lafayette, Louisiana, had met just once prior--before either bore the moniker of "national record holder." That was at January's National Pole Vault Summit in Reno, Nevada, where Duplantis cleared 17-6 for the win and Nilsen cleared 17-2 for runner-up honors.

Fast-forward five months, and the stakes became much higher.

Duplantis became the first prep to clear 18 feet indoors.

Nilsen enjoyed a dream of a spring season. He improved his 17-0 best as a junior to 17-1 and then 17-6.5 before becoming the tenth vaulter in prep history to clear 18 feet. Nilsen went on to set the all-time national high school record at 18-4.75.

In the world of boys high school track and field, an 18-foot pole vaulter is nearly as rare as a sub-four minute miler, at ten for the former and nine for the latter. No two high school boys have ever broken four minutes in the same competition.

[Drew Hunter and Michael Slagowski came close last weekend at the Pre Classic. Both seniors broke four, albeit in separate races: Hunter in the Bowerman Mile and Slagowski in the National Mile].

When both Nilsen and Duplantis cleared 18-0 at the Great Southwest Classic, competition was briefly suspended as a heated discussion ensued between coaches and meet officials about how high to set the bar next.

The officials were keen on 18-6, but Nilsen and Duplantis agreed to put the bar at 18-3.

Nilsen went first and missed his first two attempts, but cleared his last.

Duplantis missed all three attempts and ended the night with his first-ever 18-foot outdoor clearance. His prior outdoor best was 17-10 at the Lousiana Region I-5A Championship.

"I think it feels even cooler that me and him jumped it in the same meet because I don't think two high schoolers have ever jumped it in the same meet," Duplantis said. 

The next time they meet could be even more historic. That will be New Balance Nationals Outdoor in Greensboro, N.C., on Sunday, June 19.

"I want to break the national record," Duplantis said. "I think between me and Chris, one of us is gonna break the national record. It's gonna go down. I hope to jump at least 18-2 and a half for sure, but hopefully the national record."

Nilsen has even higher expectations for his young friend.

"I expect that kid to jump 19-plus in high school," he said. "He's gonna go places."