Clayton Fritsch’s sophomore campaign continues to get better.
After becoming the first Sam Houston State Bearkat to medal on the national stage, he was chosen to represent Team USA at the 2019 U-23 North American, Central American and Caribbean Athletics Association (NACAC) Championships in Querétaro, Mexico.
Team USA has two athletes competing in each individual event running from July 5 to 7 and representatives were selected based on the 2019 U-23 U.S. performance rank order list. The pole vault event is set for 4:15 p.m. on Saturday, July 6.
Fritsch earned his spot thanks to his strong performance at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Austin last month when he topped 18 feet, 10.25 inches, the fifth-highest jump in the history of the meet.
The height moved Fritsch into seventh place in the world rankings and placed him third in the U-23 U.S performance rankings behind Chris Nilsen (19 feet, 6 ¼ inches) and Zach Bradford (18 feet, 11 inches). Nilsen declined to participate at the NACAC.
“Competing for Team USA is a dream come true, to wear USA gear is a special moment and something all track and field athletes aspire to accomplish,” Fritsch said in an interview with Sam Houston State athletics. “I exceeded expectations from what I thought I was capable of at the beginning of the year, but as the year went on, things started to click and big bars just kept coming.
“The opportunities to compete at large meets began to open up and making a national team became a goal once the year got rolling.”
Fritsch was named a first-team All-American by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association when he earned the first medal in school history from the NCAA Outdoor Championships May 5. He also placed seventh at the NCAA Indoor Championships last fall, which also makes him the first Bearkat to be both an indoor and outdoor first-team All-American honoree.
“This is a huge opportunity for Clayton and SHSU,” coach Cutter Bernhard said to SHS athletics. “He will be representing Team USA on an international stage. These championships are set up to help groom the next generation of Olympic athletes.”
Fritsch had an outstanding outdoor season highlighted by a first-place finish at the Victor Lopez Classic, the ACU Last Chance meet and the NCAA West Region Preliminary. He also placed second at the Southland Conference Outdoor Championships, third at the Beach Invitational and fourth at the Bryan Clay Invitational.
This will be Fritsch’s first time traveling out of the country and competing on the international level. He will be joined at the games by athletes from Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Canada, Cayman Islands, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Montserrat, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and The Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
“I’m excited to go see new things and a different country with the opportunity to compete with and against other athletes from different countries and backgrounds,” Fritsch closed.