Trio Heads to NCAA Track & Field Championships

The indoor season comes to a close this weekend, as three members of the Air Force track and field team travel to Fayetteville, Ark., for the 2021 NCAA Division I Indoor Track and Field Championships. Seniors Mitch Lipe (pole vault), Mahala Norris (5000-meter run) and Greg Skage (pole vault) will represent the Academy at the three-day meet, which gets underway for the Falcons on Friday, March 12.
The 2021 NCAA Division I Indoor Track and Field Championships will take place at the Randal Tyson Indoor Track Center in Fayetteville, Ark., on Thursday (March 11), Friday (March 12) and Saturday (March 13). This year’s meet, which will not be open to spectators, was extended to a three-day meet and divided into men’s and women’s competition blocks to facilitate social distancing. ESPN3 will broadcast the meet live all three days on the ESPN App, while stats will be available through (direct links to both video and stats can be found on the team’s schedule page).
Greg Skage and Mitch Lipe share the eighth-best pole vault clearance in the nation this season and are ranked 10th and 11th, respectively, in the championship field after recording career-best heights of 17’9¾”. The pair both recorded that clearance – the eighth-best mark in Academy history – at the Championships at the Peak meet on Feb. 27, while Skage initially surpassed that bar at the Air Force Collegiate Open on Feb. 19. Mahala Norris is ranked 14th on the NCAA list of 5000-meter entries after posting a career-best time of 16:00.49 – the fourth-fastest time in Air Force history – at the Iowa State Classic on Feb. 12.
Air Force is one of just three programs to qualify multiple pole vaulters to the national championship meet.
It is the first NCAA Indoor appearance of all three Falcons, although both pole vaulters competed in the preliminary round of the 2019 NCAA Outdoor Championships and Mahala Norris claimed All-American accolades at the NCAA Cross Country Championships that fall. Norris. Skage (2019 outdoor) and Lipe (2020 indoor) are the two most recent Mountain West champions in the pole vault, while Norris became the Academy’s first female conference champion in cross country on March 5.
Following her 5000-meter race at the NCAA Indoor Championships on Friday night in Fayetteville, Ark., Mahala Norris will travel to Stillwater, Okla., for the NCAA Cross Country Championships on Monday afternoon.  
The Falcons have combined for 33 All-American accolades at the NCAA Division I Indoor Championships. With his third 800-meter award in 2020, Michael Rhoads became the most program’s decorated individual All-American at the indoor championships. Justin Tyner, the top American finisher in the 5000-meter run at the 2010 championship meet, also collected three honors during his career – two individual honors and one as a member of the distance medley relay in 2011. The women also received 23 All-America awards at the NCAA Division II Indoor Championships, with Callie Calhoun (3000-meter run) and Jill Wood (1500-meter run) claiming national titles.
With Mitch Lipe and Greg Skage both securing bids to the 2021 NCAA Indoor Championships, Air Force has now qualified nine pole vaulters to the indoor finals a total of 14 times since 2004. Mahala Norris’ 5000-meter bid marks the fourth time six years that Air Force has qualified a member of the women’s team to the national finals in that event.
The Falcons hold five top-30 rankings in the final national indoor standings, including pole vaulters Mitch Lipe and Greg Skage, who are tied for 11th with matching marks of 17’9¾”. Mahala Norris (15th, 16:00.94) and Sam Gilman (25th, 13:48.36) are both listed in the top-25 of their respective 5000-meter rankings, while Cole Lindhorst is ranked 30th in the mile with a time of 3:59.28.
This final USTFCCCA indoor #EventSquad rankings – which are determined by using the cumulative season-best marks from a team’s top-four athletes on the national descending order list – feature four of the men’s event groups listed among the nation’s top 10. The men’s pole vault is ranked third with a cumulative clearance of 68’11”, while the heptathlon is ranked fourth (19,499), the 5000-meter run is ranked eighth (56:35.93) and the high jump is ranked 10th (26’10¾”).
Mahala Norris will wrap up a busy week on March 15, when she represents the Academy, along with the 19th-ranked men’s team at the NCAA Cross Country Championships in Stillwater. The rest of the team turns their attention to the second half of 2021, as they are scheduled to kick off the outdoor campaign at the Jerry Quiller Classic in Boulder on March 19-20.