Pitt State’s Lander aims to return to top after COVID-shortened junior year

Haven Lander is a 2X pole vault national champion.

PITTSBURG, Kan. – After the pandemic ended her junior season early, Pitt State’s Haven Lander is ready to get back to the top.

“When we got back here, I pushed myself very, very hard to try to get the motivation back up to get where I am,” Lander says of returning from the pandemic.

“With everything that happened last year, you can go one of two ways,” says Pitt State coach Kyle Rutledge, “You can lose motivation, or it motivates you even more. I think she’s taken the latter part of it, where she’s even more motivated than she was.”

Lander is a 2X national champion in the pole vault.

She opened up the indoor season on Saturday with a 1st-place finish in her first event in nearly a year.

“It definitely boosted my confidence a little bit,” Lander says of winning, “I was honestly having a little bit of trouble in the beginning of the year building that confidence back up, because, obviously, we haven’t competed in so long.”

Lander cleared 13 feet – 3.75 inches Saturday.

That mark is the best in Division II and automatically qualifies her for nationals at the end of the season.

“It takes the monkey off her back,” Rutledge says of Lander qualifying for nationals, “It allows us to focus a little bit more technically, and not have to worry about doing certain things. We can go back to making sure we’re getting ourselves ready, both mentally and physically, and we can work on the things we need to work on.”

“Now that I know I will be able to go to nationals, I’m really looking forward to it. I’m looking forward to going back and showing what happened last year doesn’t matter,” Lander adds, “I’m still the same me and I’m going to jump the best I can.”

For her performance she earned national recognition as the Division II track and field athlete of the week – something she hopes is the first step on her way back to the top.

“Seeing I was the first ever female athlete to ever get it for Pitt State, it was awesome,” Lander says of the honor, “I kind of forget that things like that are possible, honestly. I forget you can get those awards. Seeing I was the one that was chosen, when there’s so many amazing athletes out there, it just makes me grateful that I’m able to do what I can do.”

“It means a big deal to her to be recognized,” Rutledge says, “That’s a special accomplishment with anything. It’s special just for a Pitt State athlete. Any time we can get the exposure and our kids do well, it’s great to see it. That’s what we’re proud of.”

“It definitely makes me hungry for more,” Lander finishes, “It makes me want to achieve more things like that.”

Pitt State’s next event will be this Saturday, on the road at Washburn.