Although Nathan Hite was certain mechanical engineering would be in his future, track and field was no guarantee even despite a pair of triple jump state championships at the TAPPS 2A level with Southwest Christian Academy.
“After high school, I knew I wanted to go to Texas A&M to be a mechanical engineer but I kind of thought my sports career was over,” he said. “I came on a financial aid visit the summer before I was going to start and my mom said, ‘let’s just go and talk to the coach and see if you could walk on.’”
He was convinced and they made their way down to meet with the track coach who informed Hite his numbers still weren’t what they were looking for, but there was a possible other option.
“‘We’ve got a group of about four guys who are going to be doing decathlon this year if you’d like to be in that group,’” Hite recounted of the conversation with jumping coach Kris Grimes. “We talked in his office for 30 or 40 minutes and I jumped at the chance and I had only ever really heard of the decathlon a couple of times before, I couldn’t even tell you which 10 events there were at that point,” Hite joked.
“He told me he’d train me until Christmas break and if I was picking things up then they’d keep me on the team and so I trained as hard as I could and some of the events came naturally and they never told me not to come back so I came back that spring and finished up that redshirt year and the rest is history,” Hite said.
Just the title student-athlete draws the interpretation of a balancing act with a variety of things, all of which are important, pulling all different directions. Hite was able to execute it to near perfection in his five years in College Station where he relied not only on his character but also the ones who instilled those values in him to begin with.
“One of the biggest things I learned was about sacrifice and how if you want to achieve a goal, you’re going to have to sacrifice something, nothing comes free,” he said. “There were a lot of times when I’ve got friends going out and doing things and inviting me places and I just can’t. If I’m trying to achieve what I’m putting all this time in to achieve, then I’ve gotta say no and I’ve gotta stick to my books and stick to my training.”
That focus on studying paid off with a host of academic honors adding onto the laundry list of qualifiers Hite has attached to his name.
At the school level, he was named Texas A&M’s top student-athlete of the year for the second consecutive time this year, taking home the Bill Erwin Scholar-Athlete award with a GPA listed at 3.974. Speaking of things coming in twos, Hite earned his second NCAA Elite 90 at this year’s indoor championships where he entered the events with the highest GPA out of all entrants in his discipline.
In addition, he was named to the Google Cloud Academic All-District First-Team for track and field/cross country by the College Sports Information Directors of America and will wait to hear which Academic All-American team he makes with the announcement coming in July.
Not only that, but Hite was also bestowed with an award reserved for the greatest tier of competitors in the Southeastern Conference; the H. Boyd McWhorter Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
“That was such a huge honor and at first, I didn’t quite understand what an honor it was until I went to the SEC Spring Meeting and they said it’s the highest honor that a student-athlete can get in the SEC and I was just taken aback by that,” Hite said. “It means a whole lot because of all the sacrifices I talked about. It wasn’t like I was looking ahead thinking, ‘Someday I’ll win an award for this,’ it’s just the character I had to show in order to achieve what I wanted.”
He was able to get that done and now shifts his focus to wanting to continue to achieve success on the track and in the classroom with the Olympics and a master’s program now serving as the entities that Hite must juggle eventually en route to changing the world on a bigger scale.
“Engineering is definitely in my future and in the fall, I’ll be starting my master’s degree in mechanical engineering at Texas A&M and that first year will be tough because I’ll still be training,” Hite said. “It’ll be a two-year program and after I graduate, I’d like to get a job maybe in aerospace or automotive or medical. I’ve done a lot of research on medical and how you can apply the 3D setting of shape-memory alloys to medical implants so I’d like to get a job in research and development just somewhere where I can be on that leading edge of technology, discovering new things and designing things that can help people, I just want to make a difference.”