Fritsch to represent Bearkats on global stage

Michael Wade/For the Southland ConferenceSam Houston State sophomore Clayton Fritsch takes part in the Southland Indoor Championships in Birmingham, Alabama earlier this year.

Sam Houston State sophomore pole vaulter Clayton Fritsch is taking his talents internationally.

Fritsch has been selected to represent Team USA at the 2019 U-23 North American, Central American and Caribbean Athletics Association Championships, which will be held July 5-7 in Querétaro, Mexico.

Team USA has two athletes competing in each individual event, with representatives being selected based on the 2019 U-23 U.S performance rank order list. Fritsch earned his spot as a result of strong performance at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Austin last month. During the event, he topped 18 feet, 10 ¼ inches, the fifth-highest jump in the history of the meet, which was good enough for a third-place finish.

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,” Fritsch said. “To wear USA gear is a special moment and something all track and field athletes aspire to accomplish. 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, and he became the first Bearkat student-athlete to medal at the NCAA outdoor championships in May. He also placed seventh at the NCAA indoor championships last fall, which makes him the first Bearkat to be both an indoor and outdoor first-team All-American.

“This is a huge opportunity for Clayton and SHSU,” Sam Houston State track and field coach Cutter Bernhard said. “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’s outdoor season highlighted by first-place finishes at the Victor Lopez Classic, the ACU Last Chance meet and the NCAA West Region Preliminary. He also placed second at the Southland 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. 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 will also be taking part in the event.

“I’m excited to go see new things and a different country, with the opportunity to compete against other athletes from different countries and backgrounds,” Fritsch said.