GATESVILLE — The sport is in Nick Meaders’ blood, and apparently, it is contagious.
After first being introduced to pole vaulting by his older brother, Meaders became addicted, quickly excelling to become one of the best in the area, and in 2012, as a sophomore, he reached the state track meet.
Now the Gatesville senior is preparing to return to Austin.
Meaders signed a letter of intent to compete in the pole vault for the University of Texas during a signing ceremony Friday afternoon inside the Gatesville gymnasium.
Once his commitment was official, Meaders talked about how much his brother — Seth Meaders — inspired and influenced him.
“He meant everything,” Meaders said. “He is the reason I started. I wasn’t going to start originally, and then he got me into it. He has always pushed me real hard. He got me where I am.”
Along the way to becoming a Division-I athlete, Meaders, and his brother, helped make pole vaulting popular in Gatesville, creating fans out of people for whom the sport was foreign, including Hornets athletic director Kyle Cooper.
“At my high school, I think we had the pole vault, but I have no idea who our pole vaulters were,” he said. “But when I showed up here in 2007, Seth was gung-ho about vaulting, and then Nick jumped right in there behind him. Now, all of a sudden, I watch these guys and their success, and I hope my son becomes a vaulter, too.”
Although the ceremony opened a new chapter in Meaders’ life, he still has time remaining in his high school career, which could include one final stop in Austin before joining the Longhorns.
Meaders won gold at the District 8-3A meet Wednesday at Liberty Hill’s Panther Stadium, clearing 16 feet to beat Lampasas senior Steven Jazdyk, who reached the state meet last season in the pole vault before recently committing to Oklahoma as a decathlete, by 18 inches.
Comprised of athletes from District 7-3A and District 8-3A, the area meet will be held Wednesday at Brownwood’s Gordon Wood Stadium, where the top four finishers in each event advance to the Region I-3A meet in Lubbock later this month.
From there, Meaders can clinch his second berth at the state track meet, and Hornets head coach Elliot Kelley knows from experience his standout will be prepared to make a legitimate run at returning.
“There were times during his sophomore and junior years, when we were walking off the track after doing a full track workout, and he would tell me, ‘That is not enough for me,’” Elliot recalled. “He would go and do more, and he did that throughout his career.”
The relentless work ethic paid off.
In addition to claiming the gold medal at district, Meaders set a school record this season while competing at the Badger Relays, clearing 16-2 to establish a new benchmark for the Hornets.
Meaders’ fondest memories of Gatesville, however, do not involve winning medals or setting new standards.
“I am going to remember all my friends, all the coaches, all the leadership and all the people who helped,” he said.
Before departing, Meaders intends to compete several more times with the Hornets, including once in May at Mike A. Myers Stadium, located on Texas’ campus.
“Hopefully, I can cap off my career by going all the way to state,” he said.