Freshman Kyle Landon is the first SIU male high jumper to earn All-American honors since 1996 (Cameron Wright).
June 13, 2014
By Tyler Wooten
EUGENE, Ore. -- Saluki freshman Kyle Landon ended his initial campaign at SIU with a tremendous performance in the high jump at Day Three of the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships at the University of Oregon's Hayward Field on Friday, where he finished tied for third overall to earn First-Team All-American status.
Landon, a freshman native of nearby Chester, Ill., finished tied for third at 2.20m (7-02.50) and was the most consistent high jumper at the national meet for the first four heights. He cruised to a tie for first place with national leader Nick Ross of Arizona heading into the fifth bar at 2.25m (7-04.50), where he found himself without a miss and in national title contention as only six competitors remained.
"He looked real good coming into that first opening height (6-08.75) and made that pretty easily," said SIU jumps coach Andre Scott. "All this week we've been talking about staying clean in the competition so we could place better, and as the bar moved up to the next height (6-10.75) he made that pretty clean as well, no errors were made. Same thing with seven feet, he made all those bars look easy."
The idea of a national title occurred to both Landon and Scott before leaving for Eugene and once again when the opportunity presented itself tonight.
"I told him before we left to come here that he could be 6-10 or he could go win the meet if he wanted to," Scott said. "He just had to stay clean and clear bars. Coming into 7-4 that thought came into my mind, that he could be a national title winner if he had actually got over that bar."
"I knew it was anyone's game, and that's why it didn't phase me," Landon said.
Landon couldn't get over the next bar, though, and finished tied for third with Ross at his previous PR of 2.20m (7-02.50). He finished as one of only two All-Americans who did not pass on the first height (2.05m/6-08.75) and ended up tied for first with Ross in fewest misses (three). Arizona State's Bryan McBride won the national title on a clearance of 2.28m (7-05.75).
"His last one he was pretty close, he actually had the height to get up over the bar but he kind of stopped running in his turn and didn't have enough speed to go over the bar," Scott said. "The first two weren't as good as that last one, he got a little tense on those, he ran a little different on 7-4 than he did the other ones."
"I got my head and my whole back over and at that point I was like, `I'm over it!'" Landon said. "And then the next thing I knew my butt dragged because on my plant all my speed I got on the curve got sucked out on me by the end. I had the height and I was over it, but the speed didn't take me all the way."
Although he came surprisingly close to becoming a national champion as a freshman, Landon is keeping a positive outlook.
"I looked at it this way: I'm only a freshman and I'm just barely missing it, so hopefully I can get it next year," Landon said.
Today's performance will be remembered fondly by the SIU history books, as Landon is now Southern's 146th track and field All-American -- the 76th Saluki to do so outdoors and the 55th Saluki male to to earn the honor in the outdoor season. Landon is the first Saluki male to earn All-American distinction in the high jump since Cameron Wright (indoors 1996, outdoors 1995), and his third-place finish is the highest by any Saluki male outdoors since Olympian Darrin Plab won the 1992 NCAA high jump title. His finish also put Southern on the scoresheet in Eugene with 6.5 meet points, which is already the 17th-most in Saluki history outdoors and the 25th-most in Saluki history regardless of season.
"I'm in shock, but I'm not shocked I did it (earned All-American), because these were all goals I've had and have been working toward," Landon said. "I'm just glad I could accomplish them early on so I could set bigger goals to accomplish later on down the road."
"I am so proud of him and the way that he handled the pressure of being here for the first time," said SIU head coach Connie Price-Smith. "He did an amazing job."
His finish today is a perfect bookend to an extraordinary freshman campaign at Southern, as he claimed both the indoor and outdoor Missouri Valley Conference high jump championships and pushed himself up to fifth all-time indoors and outdoors on SIU's illustrious high jump list with Olympians like Plab and Wright at the top.
"(Earning All-American) means a lot, that was one of my biggest goals was to get on that board, and to be next to those names like Darrin Plab and Cameron Wright," Landon said. "It's an honor and I just hope that I can get some clearances later on down the road and get to the same heights they were at --and maybe even more."
Southern's stay in Eugene is not over, however, as Ashley Gaston and Alexus Scott will take to the shot put ring tomorrow afternoon at 3 p.m. CT in an attempt to add to SIU's team score on the women's side. Live results are available at Flash Results and the championships will be broadcast on ESPNU and the WatchESPN app beginning at 4 p.m. A replay of Friday's action will also be broadcast on ESPNU at 10 a.m.
2.05m (6-08.75): O
2.10m (6-10.75): O
2.15m (7-00.50): O
2.20m (7-02.50): O (first over, three competitors went before)
2.25m (7-04.75): XXX