NORFOLK, Va. – Ritchie County’s Austin Garrett hopes he can improve enough as a senior pole vaulter to secure a scholarship offer from a Division I program.
On Saturday, the reigning Class AA state champion finished third in the 17-18 division of the AAU National Championships-Junior Olympics at Dick Price Stadium on the campus of Northfolk State University with a vault of 14 feet, 5 1/4 inches. Unlike the USATF where the top eight finishers in any event are designated as All-Americans, only the champion gets the nod in AAU. Two-time defending Class AAA state champion pole vaulter Tristan Slater, who will be a senior at Capital, won the event (16-4.75) and Adam Coulon of Bloomington, Ill., went 15-5 to finish runner-up. “It’s different and I don’t like it,” Garrett admitted of the difference between USATF and AAU when it comes to All-American status. “I was looking to go higher than 15 (feet on Saturday) and set a new PR (personal record) and maybe go 15-6 and look at 16. “I’m happy with what I did for the day. Height-wise, it wasn’t where I wanted it to be, but placing-wise is what I was hoping for. The weather wasn’t ideal and that kind of played a little bit of a factor.” After qualifying from the regional event in Charleston, Garrett said he was projected to finish fourth overall. Now just a single-sport athlete for the Rebels, Garrett heads back for the start of his last year in Ellenboro on Thursday. Along with his performance on Saturday, Garrett has been busy this summer. He competed in a street vault in Winston-Salem, N.C., which was sanctioned by the USATF, and he also spent last weekend in Oxford, Miss. “My uncle lives in Oxford and I’m good friends with the Kendricks,” Garrett said of two-time NCAA champion and five-time former All-American pole vaulter Sam Kendricks and his father Scott. “He (Sam) will be in the next Olympics. I went down to train for a week with them. It’s nice to be able to pick up new things and change things. It was an opportunity for me to take a week and try out some new things before nationals.” From now until track season in the spring, Garrett plans to continue working on his craft. Although he knows getting to 16 feet will be key in securing the athletic scholarship he covets, he’s not too focused on the height right now. “My focus points, it’s not something to worry about (the height),” added Garrett, who set the double-A state meet record this spring with his vault of 15 feet. “It’s about my run and plant. I’d like to go south (for college). I’m more of a warmer-weather type of person. “Right now, I’ve talked to a few schools, but nothing is really lined up. They are not going to offer anything until they see the 16-foot mark just about, and that’s what I was hoping for today.”