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Makin earns All-American with 15-9 in pole vault

May 29, 2018


LACROSSE, Wis. - The 2018 Bluffton University track and field season ended on a high note in La Crosse, Wisconsin on Saturday, May 26 at the NCAA National Track & Field Championship meet. Gabe Makin (Elida) capped a stellar freshman campaign with an All-American performance in the men’s pole vault.

Going in to the meet ranked 12th in the nation, Makin knew he had a good opportunity to secure one of the coveted top 8 spots on the podium if he started the competition cleanly. The last several meets cast some doubt on that however as he had experienced rough starts, not clearing opening height until third attempt. With the national bar at the opening height of 15’ 1”, Makin sailed over cleanly on first attempt, much to the delight, and relief, of athlete and coaches alike. A similarly clean first attempt on second height brought expectations to a new level. However, the third bar proved to be problematic.  Feeling dejected, Makin sat in the infield trying to stay cool in the 95 degree heat, watching the remainder of the field compete. It was not until he was approached by an official and advised not to leave the area that athlete and coaches knew he had made it! Based upon those crucial first-attempt clearances, Makin was in a 3-way tie for 8th place, and with it the All-American status he had set his sights on at the beginning of the season.

“What a roller coaster of emotions we were all on,” said Head Coach Karen Brandt, “As we think it’s all over and then realize Gabe made the podium. He was one of only four freshman to qualify for nationals in men’s pole vault so that in itself was a huge accomplishment but Gabe is a deeply competitive athlete and just getting there was definitely not enough. As he and Coach Dillon said, they wanted a performance that showed they belonged at the meet. I am quite proud of Gabe and happy for Coach Dillon that they met their goal for the season. I am also grateful that Gabe provided me with such a wonderful way to end my coaching career with a last trip to nationals and seeing an athlete in Bluffton gear mount the podium. I will take a lot of good memories into retirement with me.”

The Brandts, who are set to retire effective June 30, leave behind an impressive record from their seven-year stint at Bluffton University. Taking over a program in the summer of 2011 that had approximately 17 athletes in cross country and track and field combined, they fulfilled the mission assigned them of bringing the program out of the back of the conference rankings. As teams, their women finished as high as 2nd in both a cross country and an indoor track and field conference championship while their men took 3rd place team finishes in cross country and both indoor and outdoor conference championships. A detailed look at their athletes’ accomplishments is listed below.

4 All-American performances

3 additional NCAA national meet qualifying performances

4 All-Academic honorees (3.5+ cumulative GPA and national ranking)

2 Cross Country Conference Champions & Athletes of the Year (male & female, first in school history)

40 Track & Field Individual or Relay Conference Champions (including one 4-time event champion)

9 Track & Field Conference championship meet records

1 Female HCAC Freshman of the Year

3 Male HCAC Freshmen of the Year

1 Female HCAC Field Athlete of the Year

3 Male HCAC Field Athlete of the Year

1 Indoor All-Ohio Champion

6 Outdoor All-Ohio Champions