One Eagle flew above the rest of the state earlier this month.
Woodsboro High School track phenom Anthony Meacham finalized his year-long dominance in the pole vault at the 2A State Track & Field Championships in Austin, achieving a 2021 personal vault record of 17 feet.
The 17-foot vault broke a state record that had stood for 26 years, putting the junior among the true greats of his sport. The mark sets Meacham as the top vaulter in all of Texas high school athletics, and the seventh-best vaulter in the nation.
“It’s a real blessing, because I never thought I would be here,” Meacham said.
At Mike A. Myers Stadium, home of the Texas Longhorns track unit, the Eagle was also scheduled to perform in the long jump competition. The extra event only aided Meacham in his vaulting conquest.
“That was very different,” he said. “We warmed up at pole vault at first, felt pretty good about the poles, and went to long jump … took four jumps, and placed third with a (21-foot, 10-inch jump). As soon as I was done, I went over to pole vault, changed my shoes, and as soon as I was over there, it was basically time for me to start going. I felt good, and I guess my adrenaline was really pumping that day.”
Meacham blew by his competition, with a 17-foot mark outpacing second-place Jeremiah Steph of Beckville by nearly 3 feet. The rest of the field weren’t the only ones that underestimated the Eagle’s flights, as officials had to cut off further attempts due to lack of equipment.
“I started going through poles, and going through poles … and they didn’t have enough poles.”
Meacham’s story is organically Woodsboro, growing up in the town his whole life to parents Melissa and Aaron. Describing it as “pretty nice” maturing in Eagle country, the student-athlete puts the population of 1,300 on his back wherever he goes.
“It’s an everyday thing for me, I guess,” he said about representing his town. “Everybody has pushed me to where I am today, and the community is great. They always know everything that you’re doing, no matter what’s happening. They always try to keep up, they always try to be where you are.”
He began on the athletic path as a lineman in pee-wee football, with father Aaron as the coach. Calling it a “pretty fun” experience, the Eagle branched off into other sports before eventually finding summer track.
When Meacham first hit the asphalt at 10 years of age, it wasn’t easy for him to stop.
“I didn’t know which event was my favorite, so I literally did every event when I was a kid. I just had a lot of energy … I’d usually win some races, but I’d lose a lot of races, too.”
Whittling the vast event catalog down to his pole vault specialty required the intervention of Vault Barn proprietor and coach Kevin Hall, who first observed Meacham as a middle school football player.
“I never knew anything about pole vault … he took me out there, and I said I’m afraid of heights, I don’t know if I’ll be able to do it. He said just go out there, try it. So I tried it, and I just fell in love with it right off the bat.”
Describing the vaulting atmosphere as “perfect,” Meacham immediately made an impact, vaulting around the 12-foot mark in seventh grade before reaching 13 feet the following year. Starting to “blow through poles,” Meacham “took off” in his formative vaulting years.
“(It was) growing up a little bit, maturing,” he credited his rapid improvement to “getting taller, getting stronger, getting bigger.”
While not getting bigger on a daily basis in high school, Meacham still improved through his dedication to training at WHS and at the Vault Barn. As a freshman in 2019, he won state with a 16-1 vault, named tops in the nation for his class. His lifetime personal record, a 17-2 3/4 vault at the Vaulter Regional Nationals in 2020, was the third-best mark ever at the event by a sophomore.
His vaults have gotten so vast in height, he says, that the Vault Barn roof is no longer able to keep him contained inside the venue. Still, he uses Hall’s facility whenever he gets the chance.
“We do a lot of core training to make sure that I can swing out fast … (it’s) very technical. We usually do a lot of conditioning drills to make sure that I can get faster, get stronger. We also do a lot of weightlifting. It’s not heavy weightlifting, but we do enough to keep our shape.”
Still awaiting his future, the Woodsboro student has gotten statewide attention from a bevy of universities eyeing his talent. With no college visitation yet due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a decision is yet to be made on Meacham’s part.
Regardless of attention from colleges, or from other observers enamored with his accomplishments, Meacham keeps as consistent in his demeanor as in his vaulting form.
“I really try to keep to myself a lot, try to just stay as humble as I can, not try to show off or do anything like that … I stay in my own little bubble, and I try to do what I can to just be the best part of me.”