After a rapid ascension through the high school track and field ranks, Matt Cless will be enrolled at Auburn University in the fall for his track and field commitment. Unparalleled to most Division I athletes, Cless’ first exposure with his sport was his junior year. Freshman and sophomore year, Cless was a member of the ETHS basketball team. Right before his junior year basketball tryouts, Cless decided to end his basketball career and give track a try.
“I could jump. That’s the one thing I really liked about basketball: dunking,” Cless describes his transition from basketball to track. “I was like, ‘Oh, I can jump. I’m going to go try to high jump.”
From there, Cless began to excel in his new sport.
“I liked [high jump] after the first few practices, and I was like, ‘Alright, I want to be good at this. I know I can be good at this. I feel I can be good at this,’” Cless shares. “My goal was to jump to [Division I] heights, and that really motivated me to get even better.”
By the end of his first season, where he would ultimately finish third in the state in the high jump, Cless was already receiving attention for high jump at a collegiate level. He still recalls the moment when he first realized he could pursue track and field beyond high school.
“It’s not [a] hard [height to jump] at all now, but when I jumped 6’6” at St. Rita last year, it was the middle of May, and that’s when I really first realized that I can be something and that I’m good at this. That’s when a bunch of coaches wanted to have phone calls, and that was the moment where it really hit me … [that I’ve] kind of made it in the sport.”
Next year, Cless will major in Professional Flight, allowing him to pursue a career in aviation. Cless shares that he’s wanted to be a pilot for as long as he could remember.
“I’ve never had any second thoughts career-wise.”
One thing is certain, whether it’s jumping or flying, Cless will rise to great heights at Auburn University.