MOREHEAD CITY — A pleasant surprise helped Braxton Plisko make his college decision.
The West Carteret senior high jumper had his heart set on N.C. State when the U.S. Air Force Academy came calling.
“It was just completely off my radar,” Plisko said. “It came out of nowhere. I was being recruited by N.C. State, and I was planning on going there. But I didn’t want to just say no, so I started doing my research.”
Plisko has received an appointment and is set to report to the Colorado Springs, Colo. school later this summer. He will be required to give a four-year commitment after graduating.
Even before he knew he would compete at the Division I track and field level, Plisko knew N.C. State was the school for him due to its fine mathematic and engineering departments.
He soon learned the Air Force Academy could also offer a program for a student-athlete interested in aerospace engineering. He hopes to become an aircraft munitions technician officer.
“They have a great engineering program,” Plisko said. “They set you up for life, they give you a guaranteed job, endless benefits, the whole nine yards. I fell in love with them for those reasons. They just snuck up on me, but I soon realized this is actually where I want to go to school.”
A standout student with a 4.32 GPA, he is a member of the National Honors Society and the Chick-fil-A Leadership Academy. Plisko also works at Fort Macon Marina.
“He’s a real good kid,” West Carteret track and field coach Marshall Windsor said. “He’s a good student and a coachable young man. He’s a pleasure to work with. I’m pleased that he’s going to school there. I’m proud of him. I think he’s a credit to West Carteret, his family, his community, and I think he will do a fine job out there.”
Plisko entered the radar of N.C. State and Western Carolina coaches after his sophomore season when he leapt 6 feet, 6.75 inches to win the 15-16 age group boys high jump at the AAU Junior Olympic Games.
His previous personal record at West Carteret of 6-2 came during the spring outdoor season. He then jumped 6-4.75 in the summer before nearly hitting 6-7.
“That was mind boggling,” Plisko said. “I never saw that coming. I was continuously jumping 6-0, then I added two inches, then another two inches and then almost 6-7.”
He began communicating with N.C. State and Western Carolina as a junior and was drawn to both schools for different reasons. Western was interested in him competing in multi-events, while N.C. State wanted him to focus on the high jump.
“My junior year, I wanted to do multi stuff - hurdles, pole vault, sprints, distance, etc.,” he said. “I was starting to get a hang of the techniques when COVID hit. It would have been a challenge doing that at Western, the heptathlon, decathlon, but I love challenges.”
Coaches at both schools were reaching out on a consistent basis, and Plisko had settled on N.C. State before the Air Force Academy entered the mix.
“I had high hopes for State,” he said. “It was hard to let those schools know I wasn’t going there.”
He’s shown the potential to compete at the Division I college level with his 6-6.75 personal record. So far this indoor season at the Air Force Academy, only two jumpers have cleared higher than 6-7.
Junior Jake Hall jumped 6-11 earlier this month at the Wyoming Power Meet to reach No. 9 on the program’s all-time high jump list.
“I reached out to him, and he’s been very helpful through this,” Plisko said. “At least I know I can be where most of them are. Knowing that it is possible for me helps.”
Windsor believes a full-time commitment to a college weightlifting program will do wonders for his student-athlete and has evidence to prove it.
“He’s a good all-around athlete, but lifting will make a big difference,” Windsor said. “When you talk to Emme (Fisher) at (North) Carolina, Mackenzie (Whitaker) at East Carolina, Charles (Cooley) at Western (Carolina), they say the lifting is why they are doing a lot better.”
Windsor, who is in his 52nd year coaching, has seen former student-athletes graduate from the U.S. Military Academy West Point, U.S. Naval Academy, and U.S. Coast Guard Academy.
“I told Braxton I’m ready to go to another academy graduation,” he said. “I need to fill out the list. If he has room, just let me know, and I’ll drive out there.”
Plisko will have to adjust to the idea of competing more than 1,800 miles away instead of in Raleigh, but he doesn’t think that will be an issue.
“I will miss friends and family,” he said. “All I’ve ever known is Carteret County, but I’ve always known I wanted to go see more of what the world has to offer.”