Texas A&M’s dynamic, pole-vaulting duo is aiming for higher than the bar: James Wooten and Audie Wyatt hope to fly high enough to get to the Olympic Trials.
The two have exploded onto the biggest stage this track season as two of the best pole vaulters in Texas A&M history. Both have also cleared 17 ft 9 inches this season, and now battle to break the school record — 18 feet 0.5 inches. Wyatt and Wooten said they also have their eyes set on the Olympic Trials.
“My goal would be to win SEC’s and win nationals, because I definitely feel I have the capability to do that,” Wyatt said. “I really don’t care about the school record, I just really want to get that Olympic standard about.”
Wooten shared a similar sentiment.
“Hopefully I’ll place and score at nationals and maybe win SEC’s,” Wooten said. “For outdoor I want to put up height, and qualify for the world junior team, and if possible I would really like to qualify for the trails. It’s definitely in the realm of both of us.”
Wyatt, a sports conditioning sophomore, was born and raised in Huntsville, Texas, and has been dominating in pole vaulting since high school. Wyatt was a state champ for Huntsville High School his senior year, and last June he won the men’s pole vault for the junior division at the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. Despite receiving college offers elsewhere, Wyatt said he chose A&M after connecting with coaching staff.
“My parents told me they would do whatever they could to do get me to this school,” Wyatt said. “I had many other offers from other schools offering me a lot of money and A&M wasn’t offering me very much. I chose to come here because I knew the program and coach could turn me into a great pole vaulter.”
Jacob Wooten, a mathematics freshman, graduated from Tomball Memorial in Tomball, Texas, and is also a state champion. His sister, Brittany Wooten, is a senior pole vaulter on the track team, and Wyatt said hearing his sister’s personal account convinced him to attend A&M.
“She talked about how she has been working out with coach [Kris] Grimes and he seemed like he really knew what he was doing,” Wooten said. “I think college has really helped me grow as a vaulter. Coach Grimes has really helped me fix something that I was doing wrong in highschool and helped me exponentially.”
Wooten also said Grimes has played a key role in his success at Texas A&M.
“I would just have to say naturally I grew a little bit and got stronger and faster because of weight lifting,” Wyatt said. “Coach Grimes has changed a lot about me and made me focus, and realize I can be a great vaulter and gave me the confidence that I can do great things. I have come here and had some great accomplishments and am glad I made this decision.”
Wyatt said balancing the responsibilities of being an athlete and a student are not too challenging for him.
“We have a very busy day but a lot of that day is dedicated to doing homework and mandatory study hall that some of us have, they [the track staff] really crack down on us to make sure get our work done,” Wyatt said.
Wooten, on the other hand, said life as a collegiate student-athlete was tough to adjust to at first.
“Adjusting to college classes — they are a big jump from high school and it’s definitely more on you to learn the material,” Wooten said. “It definitely to have mandatory study halls. I think it was really got me to have my academics in check.”
Wyatt and Wooten compete Feb. 26-27 in the SEC Championship meet in Fayetteville, Arkansas.