Last April Clifton Harlin set a new pole vault record – 15 feet, 4 inches – in the Southwest Preparatory Conference state meet.
So it came as no surprise at the 109’s Fort Worth Country Day School when Harlin was recruited and signed by Texas A&M University, a Big 12 track and field powerhouse. The Aggies made history this month by becoming the first program ever to win both men’s and women’s NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championship team titles for three consecutive years.
Harlin, who is 18, has been training his entire life for this moment. Not only is Harlin an athlete, but he was also student body president, a student ambassador and a liaison between the Fort Worth community and Country Day students.
Harlin’s older brother held the record for pole-vaulting at Country Day until Clifton came along.
“As long as the record says Harlin, [my brother] doesn’t care. He was more of a cheerleader for me than anyone else,” Clifton said.
Harlin comes from a family of athletes. All of his brothers pole-vault and both of his parents played sports in college. His family supports and encourages Harlin’s success by being invested in his activities. Harlin’s father even set up a pole-vaulting arena in their back yard.
Harlin’s coach, Ken Allen, has been a coach for 17 years and is an athlete himself.
“You have to be self-motivated and a little bit crazy. It takes a special kind of person to want to run with a pole that is 14 feet long and try to jump over a pole that is 16-feet high,” Allen said.
Harlin and Allen have known each other for the past five years and an undeniable friendship has developed. It was Allen who suggested they begin calling colleges and universities to recruit Harlin.
“Track and field is not a huge sport in North America. It is not a revenue-making sport, so you have to build an opportunity for yourself,” Allen said.
Although Harlin was reviewed by many different schools to be on their track and field team, in the back of his mind he was always hoping that Texas A&M would make it onto his list of callers.
Not only does Harlin consider Texas A&M to be, “arguably the best track program in the nation,” but his whole family went to school there.
“I would have wanted to vault for A&M whether they were No. 1 or No. 60,” Harlin said. “I was talking to other schools and preparing for not being able to vault for A&M. I was blessed when it turned out how I wanted it to.”