CARBONDALE — After last season, Southern Illinois senior Kyle Landon is going to need more space in his trophy room.
The Chester native is coming off of a season in which he won a silver medal at the Olympic Trials, earned NCAA indoor and outdoor All-America honors, won his fifth and sixth Missouri Valley Conference high jump titles and nabbed both MVC Most Outstanding Male Field Performer titles.
Landon did this all while becoming the first Saluki since 1985 to earn back-to-back Academic All-America laurels.
His success a year ago is even more impressive when considering Landon was working with a new jumps coach in Terry VanLaningham. The two bonded quickly, with long film sessions and lessons about the science behind jumping.
"We formed this professional relationship and we get along really well," Landon said. "It's not just professional. He listens to what I think, and I listen to what he thinks. We have a really good process going. He's learned a lot about how I compete, how I perform, and how I come off of training."
Landon credits VanLaningham's advice to shorten his approach prior for his runner-up finish at the Olympic trials.
"Coach Van said, 'You need to run your approach for the jump, not because you want to run the approach,'" Landon said. "So we pretty much cut off 30 feet of it and it took out a lot of variable space that could've gone wrong."
Landon was one of just three jumpers in the 14-man field to advance to 7-foot-5 without a miss. Once there, he sailed over the bar on his second attempt to set a new personal-best and finish second. His runner-up showing was the best by a Saluki high jumper at the trials since Darrin Plab's second place finish at the 1992 Trials.
And while most athletes would consider a second in the United States a resounding success, Landon was left devastated by the result. He was unable to clear the Olympic standard of 7-6 and will have to wait to fulfill his childhood goal of representing the United States at the Olympic Games.
"(Missing out on the Olympics) was a devastating experience," Landon said. "But now that I look back on it, I'm actually glad it happened the way that it did because it's kept me optimistic and humble. I feel like if I had become an Olympian, it would've been great, but I feel like my focus and drive might've been hindered coming into this season."
The sun always shines after the rain, and for Landon, the rays of light shined brightest on his hometown. He returned to Chester in July to a hero's welcome, as Mayor Tom Page gave Landon the key to the city during an emotional ceremony at City Hall.
A parade in Landon's honor accompanied the festivities, and the city came out in droves, with people lining the streets of downtown Chester to cheer on and catch a glimpse of Landon. He moved to Chester prior to his freshman year of high school and wasn't exactly thrilled with the move.
"I think back to if my grandmother would have never made me move to Chester before my freshman year of high school, which I hated at the time, I don't think I would have got to where I am today," Landon said.
It didn't take long for the locals to learn his name. As a sophomore, Landon finished second in the high jump at the state meet. While it tied him for the highest finish at a state track meet in school history, Landon was left wanting more.
"My sophomore year I barely lost, and I told myself I wasn't going to let that happen again," Landon said.
He made true on his promise, becoming Chester's first-ever state champion with a win in the high jump and nearly pulled off a "jumps trifecta", as he added a second place finish in the long jump and took fourth in the triple jump.
The following season, Landon won both the high jump and long jump, becoming the first in school history to win two state titles at the same meet. It also marked just the 11th time that a male athlete won both the high and long jumps at an IHSA state meet dating back to 1892.
Fast forward to 2016. Landon once again is coming off a second-place finish that left him wanting more.
"My goal for this season, above all, is to finally be a national champion," Landon said. "I would also like to finish what I started last summer and make the world team this year," Landon said.