Unable to compete in the NCAA Championships on Wednesday because of the tragic death of her brother, Eastern Washington University All-America pole vaulter Keisa Monterola will compete in his memory on Sunday in her home country of Venezuela.
Monterola's 26-year old brother, Keldeson Monterola, was killed in a robbery on Tuesday near their hometown of Caracas, Venezuela. Keisa was in Des Moines, Iowa, to compete in the NCAA Outdoor Championships, but returned to Venezuela upon being informed of the shooting. According to Eastern women's track and field coach Marcia Mecklenburg, she learned of his death en route to Venezuela.
Mecklenburg said that following the NCAA Championships, Keisa was going to return to Venezuela anyway to compete in the Ibero-American Championships in Athletics in the Venezuelan city of Barquisimeto. The meet is a last chance for athletes to qualify for the Olympic Games in London, an accomplishment that Keisa has been chasing all season at EWU.
Mecklenburg said that EWU pole vault coach Eric Allison left Des Moines for Venezuela with Keisa's pole vault poles on Thursday (June 7). Keisa will compete on Sunday.
"Her family had planned on going to watch her compete, including the brother that passed away," said Mecklenburg. "Since his death, we weren't sure if she would be competing in that meet. We learned (Wednesday) night that her family wants her to compete for her brother."
According to the Caracas newspaper El Universal, Keldeson was visiting his girlfriend when he was stopped by armed men and shot twice in the head. The gunmen fled with a BlackBerry cellular phone that he had possessed. He later died in a hospital emergency room.
The Ibero-American Championships brings together over 400 athletes from 25 countries over the weekend in Venezuela. With a career-best of 14-4 (indoors), Keisa has been striving to clear a height of 14-5 1/4 and meet the Olympic Provisional qualifying standard. Her home country has promised the Venezuelan record-holder a spot on their Olympic team if she hits the mark.
In March, Monterola competed in the NCAA Indoor Championships and placed fifth with a height of 14-1 1/4. She has competed and placed in the 2011 Pan American Games (fifth), 2010 Central America and Caribbean Games (first), 2009 NWAACC Championships (first) and the IAAF World Youth Games (second). She is also the reigning indoor and outdoor Big Sky Conference Champion.
With a school-record mark of 14-0 hit at the 41st Annual Pelluer Invitational, Monterola was 13th in the nation heading into the NCAA Championships. Had she hit that 14-0 mark in Des Moines, she would have placed sixth. Katerina Stefanidi (Stanford) won the title with a mark of 14-7 1/4.
Keisa made her Eastern debut on Dec. 3, 2011, at the Candy Cane Invitational with a school-record effort of 13-11 1/4, breaking the previous record of 13-4 1/2 set by Sarah Hegna in 2007. Nearly two months later, Monterola broke the Big Sky Conference indoor record for the women's pole vault in January with a career-best 14-4 at the UW Team Invitational in Seattle, Wash. The previous record was 14-1 1/4 set by Elouise Rudy of Montana State in 2008.
"She has had plenty of good days in practice preparing for this meet," said Allison before they left for the NCAA Championships. "She looks good. Really good. Keisa is ready to jump high."