The Class Of 2016: Chris Nilsen


The Class of 2016 has the potential to go down as the greatest crop of track and field athletes from one graduating class ever. 

A handful of athletes from that year have already won NCAA titles, earned international medals and set new American and World records. We caught up with them as they prepared for their biggest test yet: The U.S. Olympic Trials. 

We turn next to Kansas City Park Hill graduate Chris Nilsen, a Missouri native who broke the national pole vault record in high school, before it was eventually broken by Mondo Duplantis two years later in 2018. 

After a highly successful high school career that saw Nilsen win two state pole vault titles in Missouri and then finish seventh at the World U20 Championships in Poland, he went on to the University of South Dakota, where he racked up three NCAA titles, including his craziest in 2019 against a high-flying Duplantis with a mark of 19 feet, 6.25 inches.

As a freshman, he won both his first NCAA title indoors, and then qualified for the World Championships outdoors after finishing third at USAs. 

In 2020, Nilsen turned pro and then cleared 5.93 meters (19-5.5) in February and 5.90 (19-4.25) in May. For more on our series, visit the links below.