ORU has meant more than pole-vaulting success for sophomore pole-vaulter Justin Estala. Estala said his relationships and experiences away from the team are just as vital to his success as clearing heights and setting personal bests in competition.
Hailing from the small town of Subiaco, Arkansas, Estala had no knowledge of ORU while in high school.
“The only thing that brought me to ORU was Coach Joe Dial,” Estala said. “I was being recruited by a bunch of schools, but Coach Dial stood out to me; the type of man that he was, a good coach, and we just clicked.”
The experiences and relationships that awaited Estala at ORU were pleasant surprises. The opportunity to grow closer to God and meet people who supported him was encouraging.
“ORU has opened a lot of doors. A lot of times you get discouraged but God has showed me many times that he is there,” Estala said.
One of those doors has been the opportunity to develop a friendship with former ORU pole-vaulter and current record holder Jack Whitt. Whitt’s career is highlighted by seven All-American honors and an Outdoor Nationals victory in 2012. Now Estala trains with Whitt regularly and has developed a friendship.
Whitt says Estala’s work ethic and preparation were never an issue. The meticulous details, like eating habits, had to be ironed out. Whitt says Estala was a bit on the “pudgy” side when he first came in. He has since developed a firm grip on eating clean.
Whitt said he would be proud to see Estala’s hard work pay off, even if it comes at the expense of his own pole vaulting record being broken.
“It’s just a record, and it’s meant to be broken. I would like to see him do it rather than some other vaulter,” Whitt said.
Estala has been successful in his two-year career. Estala already posted the 20th best jumping height at conference championships, was named second team All-American and finished 10th at the NCAA National Championships. From an athletic standpoint, Estala prepares as if he is a veteran who has seen it all.
“Coach Dial has known how to prepare and train me. You have to put 110 percent in mentally and physically in everything you do, and that’s what I have done since August,” Estala said.
Relationships with people who have been in ORU classes and experienced the culture, like Whitt, have helped Estala be more than just a great athlete and really discover his identity.
“I grew up Southern Baptist, so when I came into ORU it was a little bit of a culture shock for me,” Whitt said. “I’ve watched Justin mature and become more open minded and accepting of different beliefs.”
Estala attests to the unique experiences that ORU has granted him. He believes if it were not for ORU, his life would more than likely be on a downhill slide.
“A lot of times I have doubted, and God has been able to show me that he is here,” Estala said. “In my classes I can go to my professors and talk to them about any problem I have, and they help prepare me mentally and steer me in the right direction.”
Estala continues to head in the right direction with the help of a community and those who know what it is like as an ORU student athlete. With their help, Estala has grown to consider the truth of his ORU career-meaning more than just jumping for records, but truly developing as a man of God.
“I believe God put me here for a reason to represent Oral Roberts,” Estala said. “If it were not for Coach Dial and Jack, I would not be where I am. They have helped me tremendously. Just in life to have someone there to talk to. You go to any other school in the country, and you can’t get that.”