Simmons vaults his way to All-American honors

During the NCAA East preliminary round Southeastern stand out junior pole-vaulter Kovey Simmons became one of only 11 student athletes to clear the meet-high 17-0.75 feet. With that performance, Simmons earned an opportunity to compete in the NCAA Championships June 8-11 in Des Moines, Iowa.

“It was very exciting,” said Simmons. “It was my one way ticket to Nationals.”

Breaking his own record set earlier this season, Simmons’ efforts earned him All American honors at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field National Champioships Wednesday by clearing 17 feet, 2.75 inches. The new personal best and school record landed Simmons in a four-way tie for fourth place with Texas State’s Logan Cunningham of the Southland Conference, BYU’s Victor Weirich and Parker Smith of North Carolina.

“I knew I had a shot at All American honors, but I didn’t get excited. I just stayed calm and did what I had to do,” said Simmons.

Up against mother nature’s 20 mph winds, Simmons opened competition with vaults of 16 feet, 4.75 inches and 16 feet, 10.75 inches on his first attempts at both marks. After clearing his career best of 17ft, 0. 75 inches, Simmons soon cleared the 17-2.75 feet mark to briefly move into the lead. After three attempts at 17.6.5 feet, but fell short of on all three tries.

On his road to the becoming an All-American Simmons performed well throughout the spring for the Lions with several top five finishes including two first place finishes at the Tulane Team Challenge meet in February and the another first place finish at the LSU Classics relays where he cleared his personal best at the time of 16 ft. 0.75 inches. Simmons saw one of the best performances of his career as a Lion at the 84th Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays at the University of Texas in April where he shattered his personal best clearing 17 ft 0.75 inches, setting the school record of 17 ft. 0.50 inches previously held by Walter Lataple set in 1993 and tying for first place in the process.

“Kovey competed very well against some of the top athletes in the country and would have won the event had he not had some misses earlier in the competition,” said Southeastern Track coach Sean Brady. “I got to see where Kovey stacked up against some of the best in the country.”

Coach Brady credits Simmons’ position coach Mike Bartolina with his success.

“He did a wonderful job managing Kovey and teaching him progressively how to be the vaulter he is right now,” said Brady.  

The 2011 season was one to remember for Simmons, as he became the 25th men’s track and field All-American in school history and one of only three SLC student athletes to earn All-American honors in the SLC.