Soaring with the Eagles
Oral Roberts University takes pole-vaulting to greater heights.
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Whitt, who just added the 2012 NCAA national title in the pole vault to his résumé, is the prototypical pole-vaulter — 6 feet, 4 inches tall; strong; and fast, with outstanding body control.
As impressive as coach Dial’s vaulting record is, Whitt is doing his best to do his college coach one better.
A three-time Summit League indoor champion as well as a three-time outdoor champion, the product of Norman North High School also got his start at a young age.
“Growing up, I was pretty active and did all the sports — basketball, football and baseball,” Whitt says. “I started track in seventh grade, when I started pole-vaulting, and fell in love with it.”
During his sophomore year, he decided to concentrate on pole-vaulting.
“That’s when I started to really improve,” he says. “I went from 11 feet, 6 inches, to 16 feet in one season.”
That’s when Whitt fell under the tutelage of Tim McMichael, his personal coach, who is a former national vaulting champion at The University of Oklahoma.
Whitt gradually progressed in the vault, gaining national attention.
During the first outdoor meet his senior year at Norman North, Whitt soared over the bar at 17 feet, 10.75 inches, setting a new state high school record and breaking Dial’s 28-year record.
“That was beyond belief,” Whitt says.
Whitt, who won three consecutive state titles (2007-2009), went even higher that season, clearing 18 feet, 1/4 inch, at the prestigious Texas Relays. Although this was higher than his existing state record, because it did not occur in Oklahoma, it did not become another new state record.
However, that vault did bring some notoriety, as Whitt became only the sixth high schooler in history to clear 18 feet.
Whitt quickly became the focus of recruiting battles among the collegiate track and field powerhouses, Louisiana State University; the University of California, Los Angeles; Texas; Texas A&M; Florida; Oklahoma; Arizona; Oregon; and many others.
“I’ve had a pretty consistent year this year,” he says. “I’ve just been working on the little things this year — weight distribution and increasing my speed.”
Having the opportunity to learn from a former world record holder played a big role in his decision to come to ORU, Whitt says.
“He had coached my personal coach, so I knew there wouldn’t be a drastic change in coaching philosophy,” he says. “He’s done everything in pole-vaulting one could possibly do. Plus, I wanted to stay local, since I’m a big family person.”
Whitt attributes much of his success to his father, Kevin Whitt.
“He would drive me back and forth to practice, and then we traveled to the big meets,” he says. “Also, my high school track coach, Mike Ramsey, was understanding when I decided to go work under coach McMichael.”
But like most achievements, the bottom line is the result of hard work and intense effort.
“I’ve put in the work and kept my nose to the grindstone and have worked really hard,” Whitt says.