Wolverine Athlete Spotlight: Austin DeWildt
Austin DeWildt

Jan. 31, 2014

Fifth-year senior Austin DeWildt discusses Saturday's dual meet against Michigan State, the team's cohesiveness, his recovery from shoulder surgery and how he got involved in the pole vault.

On competing head-to-head against Michigan State ... "It's like no other. I remember my first dual meet, going against Ohio State. It was very nerve-racking, but it was one of the best feelings in the world because you knew it was just you against the other team. It's going to take a lot to win and hopefully we'll be able to do it."

On how the team is progressing under coach Clayton ... "It's been great. I noticed how excited the guys were. They heard about how much success coach Clayton had at Auburn and they really bought into the program and brought into him from the start. So many guys worked in the summer. You can see that he has more of a team focus -- it's the small things like having team activities on the weekends, having pizza nights and things like that to try and bridge the gaps between the distance crew, field crew and sprint crew. I think that's we were missing before I think coach Clayton is really developing a cohesive team."

"During meets like the dual and the Big Ten meet is when our teammates mean more than anything so that is going to be key. I'm the type of jumper that gets pumped up knowing who is watching me. I think 'oh wow he really cares about how I'm jumping' -- and it may be a teammate you've never really talked to before. It means a lot to see them cheer you on and I really notice those things. It really helps me take my mind off the vault and not overthink things. It's a great feeling and I think it's great when you have distance guys routing for a pole vaulter or a high jumper routing for a sprinter."

On his road to recovery after last year's shoulder injury ... "My injury happened in gymnastics -- I dislocated my shoulder. It was a crazy journey. The first thing I did was look up how long it would take to get back from a surgery like this and it said six weeks, and I said 'okay, not too bad', and then I met with the doctor and he said six months -- that was a big slap in the face. I scheduled the surgery as quick as possible and then I progressed so well. I was a month ahead of schedule. Working so hard at the beginning of my rehab plan is what motivated me to keep pushing through. I ended up recovering so quickly and it felt great."

"I think I'm smarter now than I was before my injury. I got to do a lot of video analysis and really work on my technique. My technique is light years past where I was, even what I was jumping my highest sophomore year. It's so much better and now I need to translate that into a longer approach. Right now I'm trying to get what coach and I call small victories -- keep progressing, getting a longer approach, getting on bigger and bigger poles. I've been progressing and I'm excited to see what will come in the coming weeks."

On his goals for the season ... "The majority of my goals revolve more around the outdoor season. I had a little toe injury in the fall that set me back a little bit. We devised a good training plan for the end of indoor. I might get to a longer approach at the end of indoor and hit some good marks, but right now I'm setting up really well for outdoor. I told coach I didn't want to jump mediocre -- I want to get in really good shape and right now I'm feeling really good and I'm excited to progress in my approach. I'd like to hit mid-17s outdoor, get a regional qualifying mark, and then give it a go and regionals and hopefully make it to nationals."

On pole vault running in his family ... "It's kind of a funny story. I didn't really like the pole vault when I was little. I wouldn't say I was forced into it -- my dad thought it was something fun I could do. I was actually good at it considering how short I was. My dad ran clinics for one of our close family friends who passed away and used to run those clinics for years, and that's when I got into it. It really wasn't until high school when I really started getting involved and getting into the technique. I realized I liked the mentally challenging aspect of the sport. I like that it takes hard work and takes the right kind of focus on each jump. I fell in love more and more with the sport and as a result I started jumping higher and higher -- it's all about what you put into it. We all have a great bond and always have stories to tell. There are endless stories my dad can share from vaulting at Western Michigan, my brother can share from jumping here at U-M. It's funny because we all react differently to bad meets and to good meets. There is never a dull moment with our family. It's amazing to have something that helps our family remain so close."

• Previous Spotlight: Herman Washington

Contact: Whitney Dixon (whitdix@umich.edu)