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South Dakota School of Mines' Eric Keeble clears the bar at the Yellow Jacket Spring Invitational at Black Hills State in March.

South Dakota School of Mines women's pole vaulter Erica Keeble's track and field career got off to a roaring start last season.

Early in the outdoor season, her personal best mark of 11 feet, 9 inches broke the Mines record of 11-3 set by Mikenzie Nordeen in 2016.

She appeared on her way to make some noise in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference as only a freshman, but after only two meets her progress got sidetracked.

While running she stepped on the elevated metal curb that sits just inside of the first lane of the track, it's there to prevent runners from cutting to the inside and passing illegally.

When she stepped on the curb she broke her ankle. Her season was over.

This season, the sophomore has come back with renewed sense of purpose.

She set the school indoor record during the winter with a mark of 13-4, and during the young outdoor season she's already broken her outdoor record with her mark of 12-6 3/4 over the weekend at the Kit Mayer Invitational hosted by Colorado School of Mines over the weekend.

The mark was the top performance in the RMAC this season. She has already provisionally qualified for the NCAA Division II national championships in May.

"It was pretty cool," she said. "I came back this season really strong, my coaches have been awesome and I started improving. I’m working my way back up there."

It wasn't the only school record she broke over the weekend. She was a member of the 4x100 meter relay team that also included Katherine Mathieu, Faith Chambers and Annalie Janus.

The team finished in 50.72 seconds, which broke the record the same team set earlier this season of 50.77.

It's fairly uncommon for a pole vaulter to also participate in track events throughout the season, much less break records in them. Keeble said she thinks her speed is valuable asset in pole vaulting as well, and doesn't have a problem challenging herself with more events.

Over the weekend she also ran the 400 meters, because she said she thought it would be fun to see how she would do.

"It was a great workout. I'm pretty sore, not going to lie," she said laughing.

Keeble took the injury last season in as much stride as possible, saying her teammates still tease her about stepping on the same elevated curb of the track that ended her season last year.

"People trip over it all the time because they aren’t looking for it, so last year little freshman me, I stepped right on it as I was running," she said. "It’s always a joke with my team (they say) ‘watch out for that curb.’"

Still, she admitted a broken ankle is not a fun injury to recover from. 

"It was a disappointing injury because I was doing so well," she said. "Now that I’ve got back on my feet so quick and picked it up so fast it’s motivation to keep getting better."

It showed during the indoor season, when she qualified for the indoor nationals and won the RMAC title in pole vault by setting a conference record.

It's been a slower climb with the outdoor season, even though her mark over the weekend in Colorado was almost a foot higher than her personal best from outdoor last season, but she said that's always the case when making the switch from the indoor to the outdoor season.

"Indoor you don’t have the sun in your eyes, there’s no wind, it’s perfect temperature and conditions, it’s awesome," she said. "When you go outside you have to deal with those factors. It’s been a little tough with the weather to get to those same heights but I’m hoping that at conference I can get back up to where I was in indoor."

In addition to be a school record and the top mark in the RMAC this season, the 12-6.75 was also the 15th best nationally in Division II, and she thinks its only going to get better.

Keeble didn't register a height at the indoor nationals, and that's also served as motivation for her this season. She's not only going after the RMAC title this year, she has her sights set on a national championship.

"I'm right in the mix for the national meet and if I rank in the top-12 I'll be an all-american," she said. "If I can get to my (indoor and outdoor) P.R. of 13-4 I'll rank probably second or third, so I'm hoping to get up there and rank all-american."

As for the 4x100 relay team, she said she thinks reaching the podium at the RMAC championships would be a big accomplishment.

"It’s been a really long time since our school has had four female sprinters together in a 4x100 that were really good," she said. "It would be a really accomplishment if we could place at conference."

Keeble and her 4x100 team weren't the only ones with big performances over the weekend in Colorado.

Erica Westerman broke her school record in the 800 by finishing in 2:16.52, breaking her old record of 2:19.70. She is now ninth in the RMAC standings for the event.

On the men's side, Kevin Ptak set a personal record in the 400 at 48.60, which is fourth in the RMAC. Teammate Jonathon Murray finished second in 48.93, but still holds the top RMAC time this season at 48.04.

Combined, the men's and women's teams set 20 personal records, posted 11 top-5 finishes and broke three school records. For the season, Mines has nine athletes ranked in the top-100 nationally and have 59 top-24 marks in the RMAC.

Mines is next in action in the RMAC championships which it will host from April 26-28 at O'Harra Stadium.

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Contact Geoff Preston at geoffrey.preston@rapidcityjournal.com

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Sports Reporter

Sports reporter for the Rapid City Journal.