As Austin Laut ’19, Yale track and field’s only pole vaulter, launches his outdoor season, he has eyes trained steadily on surpassing the school record. The talented athlete currently holds Yale’s second-highest mark and is already on pace to become one of the University’s all-time greats — and he’s only a sophomore.
A Sacramento, California native, Laut has made his mark here in the Northeast while steadily improving throughout the entirety of his career. After vaulting 15 feet, 3 inches in his first collegiate meet, he set the Bulldog freshman record four meets later and is now at 17 feet, only four inches off the record set just last year.
“It’s incredible for me to think I’ve reached this point, starting off as a freshman in high school reaching only 10 feet,” Laut said. “Once you start getting to these higher marks, though, it becomes incrementally harder to keep getting higher, but I think I can do it.”
This past indoor season, an unprecedented success for the men’s team as Yale finished in fourth place at the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships after bottom-two finishes the past eight years, was also a promising one for Laut. He notched three victories and four second-place finishes while only placing out of the top three a single time.
One of those runner-up finishes came at the IC4A championships, an improvement over coming in fourth at the same event last year. At Heps, Laut finished in fourth, a repeat of his freshman-year result.
“I thought I definitely had the potential to go second, but I’m not complaining about the finish,” Laut said. “I really do have high hopes for the future, though, especially looking toward this [outdoor] season and possibly nationals.”
Laut started off his outdoor season this past Saturday, winning the pole vault at the Mark Young Invitational. Aside from leaping over the school record, Laut’s other primary goal is to reach the NCAA national championships in Eugene, Oregon. In the previous outdoor season, Laut made it as far as the East Prelims but was unable to advance further. He will have a chance to eclipse two milestones this season.
Being the only athlete in his event for the Bulldogs has afforded Laut a unique experience. According to the sophomore, some of the benefits of being the sole pole vaulter include the ability to shape his own workouts and receive one-on-one attention from the coaching staff. Aside from having to carry his own equipment, Laut enjoys the opportunity, though he will be joined by new pole vault recruits next season.
Despite his lone status, Laut has looked to other members of the team for mentorship, most of all Brendan Sullivan ’16, last year’s captain and the current holder of the school’s pole vault record. He also mentioned runners James Randon ’17 and Frances Schmiede ’17, as well as current captain Marc Alexandre ’17, as team members that inspire him.
“[He] is an unbelievably dedicated and hardworking athlete. He loves the sport and is super motivated,” Alexandre said. “He always wants to push himself to become a better pole vaulter, and I think it’s a beautiful thing to see.”
Since coming to Yale, Laut, who went undefeated his senior year in high school, has represented the Elis well. In addition to his accomplishments on the field, Laut was also named to the NCAA All-Academic team last year.
“Austin is the definition of a true student-athlete: Day in and day out he works hard in the classroom and then spends hours perfecting his craft of vaulting,” said sprinter Vincent Vaughns ’20, who holds the school record for fastest 100-meter dash. “Regardless of the day, he comes in and gives 110 percent, which is hard when the Yale curriculum pulls you in so many directions.”
Though he still has two years left at Yale after this season, Laut maintains an ambitious mindset regarding his future. He plans to become a professional athlete after graduation and wants to eventually compete at the Olympics.