Already the school junior high record pole vaulter Booneville Junior Grant Wiggins took down the senior high record last Tuesday by clearing 14’ 8" in a meet at Waldron.
On the way to breaking a record that had stood since 1981 when Mark Merrill vaulted 13’ 9", also at Waldron, and, ironically enough, also as a junior, Wiggins broke his own personal record five times.
Wiggins entered the competition at 12 feet and was soon at 13 feet. From there he jumped 13’ 6" surpassing his previous best of 13’ 3".
Clearing 13’ 10" he cleared Merrill’s record.
Merrill, who lives in Booneville was aware Wiggins was approaching his height but he said he was surprised when he learned the record was still standing.
Now that it is broken? Merrill is nothing but supportive.
Merrill, who set the record at a district meet, took in one of Wiggins’ practice sessions last week and when told Wiggins runs a 4.8 40-meters, said he was impressed and that it was a lack of speed that kept him from doing more.
"Clay (Wiggins) has been telling me every time I go into (Wiggins Ace Hardware) that (Grant) was going to get my record," said Merrill. "It’s about time, it’s been 30 years."
The record having changed hands, Wiggins proceeded to clear an even 14’, 14’ 6" and ultimately 14’ 8" before he was eliminated. Paris senior Justin Estala actually won the event.
Wiggins is seeing the incredible jump in his height in a track season that is still young and, having stopped playing baseball, one in which vaulting is his only focus.
"I felt like if I put more into pole vault, I could get a lot higher — if I went to it full time," said Wiggins. "Putting extra dedication was what I needed to go higher.
"So I felt like don’t play baseball this year, go to track."
Dana Wiggins said last week her son came to that decision on his own.
"As parents we did not get involved in that decision at all," she said.
The pole vault is the only event in which Wiggins competes. He says he’s fifth leg of the 4-400, meaning it would take an injury or absence for him to have to run, and that hasn’t happened. Merrill said he also ran the 880, or today’s 800-meters.
Wiggins is also getting in extra training for the event as a member of the Arkansas Vault Club, an organization similar to a traveling baseball team. Morry Sanders operates the Club.
Wiggins will make regular visits to the club in Black Springs and has attended summer camps, clinics and USATF sanctioned meets to vault. According to the USATF website it is, "the national organization governing track and field, running and race walking."
To add the district record to his resume, Wiggins would need to again beat Merrill’s record. As it was the year Merrill vaulted 13’ 9", the district meet is in Waldron.
How long Wiggins holds the school records remains to be seen — he also holds the district junior high mark — but since his younger brother, Booneville Junior High seventh grade student Chase Wiggins, is attending and participating in the regular Sunday afternoon practice sessions with his brother, it may not be for long.
Case Wiggins vaulted 7 feet in a seventh grade meet Friday and is on pace with Grant Wiggins’ seventh grade personal record at that age.