Walden to continue pole vault at Auburn University

Max McCutcheon, Staff writer

Brooke Walden Vaulting at Adidas Outdoor Nationals June 2022.

Brook Walden’s young success as a gymnast propelled her into a blossoming career in pole vaulting, which will continue next year at Auburn University.

Walden started doing gymnastics very young and excelled in it. Eventually, she reached the point where she would have to start homeschooling to accommodate the intense traveling for competitions, so she stepped away from gymnastics altogether.

Around this time, coach Tom Esslinger, then HHS track and field coach, contacted Walden to suggest she try pole vaulting. Although it requires incredible technical skill and strength, it is a common transition for young gymnasts who already possess the muscle to start vaulting.

Brooke Walden Jumping 12’6, at Homewood track meet.

Despite her presumed advantage, Walden had to constantly practice starting in the eighth grade to get a hold of pole vaulting and the significant skill it takes. At the end of that year, she contacted private coaches and, after seeing them, started taking the sport seriously and excelling at it. From the beginning, her coaches could see the fearlessness and strong work ethic that would set a good foundation for the rest of her career.

At her first meet, Walden jumped 6 feet, 6 inches. The following year, she broke the 6A record by jumping 12 feet, 1 inch. 

In her junior year, however, her shin splints were getting worse, and she suffered a stress fracture in her back. These injuries put her out for an entire indoor season and the first half of the outdoor. After returning, she felt she had less stamina, a significant loss in strength and had lost 12 pounds. Walden thought her dreams of getting recruited were over. But now, those dreams are a reality after months of returning to and surpassing her previous ability.

Brooke Walden at Adidas Outdoor Nationals June 2022.

Walden always wanted to play sports in college.

“It has always been my dream, ever since I did gymnastics,” she said. “Now that it’s actually happening, it’s unreal, and I’m super excited.”

It’s safe to say one can’t reach the level Walden has without a supporting crew. She gives a lot of credit to her encouraging family and friends. Her parents played a massive role, with her dad giving her workouts and helping her train and her mom driving to distant practices and meets, supporting her from the sidelines at every event.