North Georgia freshman Journey Gurley of Madison County made Peach Belt Conference (PBC) history May 27 as she won the national championship in the pole vault at the NCAA finals at Grand Valley State. Gurley cleared the bar a 4.25 meters to take the title.
Gurley’s accomplishment finishes off a historic season which saw the vaulter shatter PBC records and set what was the highest vault in NCAA Division II at 4.33 meters. However, that was bested by Washburn’s Virgi Scardanzan, who cleared 4.35 at a last chance meet just two weeks before the NCAA Championships.
On Thursday in Michigan, the two would square off, but Gurley almost didn’t reach the final height. She cleared 3.80, 3.95 and 4.05 meters while the field of 17 was gradually whittled down. In the end, Scardanzan and Grand Valley’s Ellianne Kimes both cleared 4.15 meters on their first attempts. Gurley missed on her first and second attempts at that height and was one vault away from ending her competition. But she cleared the height on her third and final attempt, leaving only the three to move on to 4.25 meters.
Riding high after reaching the next round, Gurley cleared that height on her first attempt while Kimes and Scardanzan struggled, neither clearing the bar in three attempts, leaving Gurley alone atop the platform, national title in hand.
She becomes the first PBC individual to win a national title since USC Aiken’s Jeff Goff won the golf championship in 2008. PBC athletes have now won 14 individual NCAA titles.