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EUGENE, Ore. - University of Akron sophomore Matt Ludwig (Chardon, Ohio) saved his biggest jump of the season for last as his clearance of 18-4.50 (5.60m) on his third and final attempt in the men's pole vault competition at the NCAA Track and Field Championships at historic Hayward Field on Wednesday, June 7, garnered him his first national title and the ninth in program history.
Junior Terrell McClain (Youngstown, Ohio) also represented Akron with distinction in the men's long jump registering a mark of 25-7.25 (7.80m) to place fourth and earn first-team All-America honors for the first time.
By virtues of their finishes, Akron ended the opening day of the NCAA Track and Field Championships in fourth place in the men's team competition with 15 points. Texas A&M leads the field with 21.5 points, followed by Virginia (20), Florida (18), Akron (15) and Kansas (11.5).
Ludwig added to the tradition of the Zips' track and field program, which now boasts nine individual national champions, including four in men's pole vault.
"What a great first day for the Zips," Akron head track and field coach Dennis Mitchell commented. "Matt kept battling as the conditions continued to change with the wind and rain. He just kept it all in stride and stayed focused and pulled it off against a very-talented field."
The men's pole vault came down to a battle of Ohio as Ludwig and Cincinnati's Adrian Valles were the lone competitors to eclipse 18-2.50 (5.55m) and advance for the right to win the national title.
Both jumpers entered what proved to be the final bar of the competition at 18-4.50 (5.60m) with one miss apiece. Ludwig nearly bettered the bar on his second attempt, but the bar fell to the mat forcing one final jump for both him and Valles.
Valles went first and failed to clear the height. Ludwig had a strong run at the bar on his third attempt and was able to better the mark after ensuring the bar didn't dislodge from the standards to force a jump-off.
"The bar almost stayed up on his second attempt at 18-4," said Mitchell. "I had him move his standards back on the jump two inches and that possibly was the little difference in his miss. We then moved the standards back up where they were most of the competition. He stayed true to his form and made the winning bar on his last attempt. He is an extremely tough competitor."
With his championship secured, Ludwig sought to record a career-best mark advancing the bar to 18-10.25 (5.75m). He took two unsuccessful attempts at the height before retiring from the competition as an NCAA champion.
Ludwig opened his run to a title passing at the opening mark of 16-10.75 (5.15m) before clearing 17-4.50 (5.30m) on his first attempt.
He then needed two attempts to eclipse 17-10.50 (5.45m) before besting 18-2.50 (5.55m) on his first jump.
Ludwig finished third at the 2017 NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships in March after placing 10th outdoors in the event a year ago as a freshman at Missouri, when he surpassed 17-4.50 (5.30m) to garner second-team All-America accolades.
McClain opened his run in the men's long jump registering a mark of 24-9 (7.54m) on his opening jump. He upped his tally on his second attempt surpassing 24-9.75 (7.56m). McClain saved his best for his final jump soaring 24-11.75 (7.61m) to qualify for the finals.
In the finals, McClain opened with a jump of 24-8.25 (7.52m) before bettering the mark with a leap of 25-1.75 (7.66m). He capped his competition with his best performance of the meet jumping 25-7.25 (7.80m) on his final jump.
McClain improved upon his 10th-place performance in 2016, one in which he registered a mark of 24-6.50 (7.48m) en route to collecting second-team All-America honors.
"At the same time, Terrell (McClain) was going through his own battles," explained Mitchell. "He kept improving on almost every jump. Then he hit the big one on his last attempt. He has been a little beat up this year, but he just keeps fighting. Coach Tomasz Smialek has been doing an outstanding job with our jumpers.
"Matt (Ludwig) and Terrell (McClain) put the Zips in a great position for the rest of the meet."
Christi Smith made history in 2000 when she became the first national champion in school history, capturing gold in the heptathlon. Stevi Large was the next to accomplish the feat, winning the women's hammer throw in 2009. Annika Roloff captured the women's pole vault in 2014.
Shawn Barber became the school's first male champion claiming the indoor pole vault title in 2014 before again earning the crown at the 2015 NCAA Indoor and Outdoor Championships. Clayton Murphy became Akron's first-ever NCAA champion in a running event winning the indoor 800 meters and outdoor 1,500 meters in 2016.
The Zips return to competion on Friday, June 9, as sophomore Cody Stine (Shelby, Ohio) and senior Phil Jagers (Solon, Ohio) will be in action for Akron in the men's high jump and discus, respectively, at 8 and 8:05 p.m. ET.
Stine is seeded 22nd in the men's high jump after surpassing 6-10.75 (2.10m) at the NCAA East Preliminary Round on May 27. As a freshman in 2016, Stine earned second-team All-America accolades on the strength of eclipsing 6-10.25 (2.09m) to post a 13th-place performance.
The school-record holder and two-time All-America honoree in the men's discus, Jagers is seeded seventh in the competition. He registered a qualifying mark of 198-7 (60.53m) at the NCAA East Preliminary Round on May 27.