Justin Estala of Paris High School signed a national letter of intent with Oral Roberts University in Tulsa for track and field on Wednesday, May 8

Estala is the two-time defending 3A state champion in pole vault. He’s cleared a statewide-best of 16 feet, 4 inches this season.

Estala is the second Paris track athlete to sign with a Division I school and the first since the 1980s. He (5-foot-9, 165 pounds) also won the 100 meters at the conference meet. That speed combined with tremendous strength made him a vaulter.

“He has speed and is tremendously strong for his size,” Paris track coach Kelly Edwards said. “He has been very dedicated on working on his technique and has gotten better and better every year. He came up here on his vacations and time off and worked out.”

Estala said he first started vaulting in ninth grade.

“One of the coaches had me try it out, and I liked it,” Estala said. “It takes a lot of practice and you can’t be scared of going up over the bar, but it is something that I seemed to be able to do right away. After that, it was just a lot of hard work and listening to my coaches.”

Estala was a two-way starter for the Paris football team. He started in the defensive backfield and rushed for 1,000 yards in a multiple offense.

“He was a guy that we weren’t necessarily counting on as much, but he got in the weight room in the offseason and just blossomed from his junior to his senior year,” Paris football coach Bryan Hutson said. “We had some injuries and he got a chance and he had some huge games. We called him ‘Pee Wee,’ but he was one of the toughest guys we had on the team. He made himself into an all-conference player by hard work.”

Estala said he also talked to Arkansas State, Louisiana Monroe, Central Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas State, South Alabama and Mississippi State.

“I was looking for somewhere that I really had a good connection to the coach,” Estala said. “Some of the other schools talked about the numbers I had to hit and all that. But the ORU coach just made me feel comfortable and that he was interested in me.”