If Kyle Landon has his way, his 2016 summer vacation will be one for the ages.

The SIU freshman high jumper has high hopes, largely because he's learned to soar high over bars. In winning nine of 11 meets this spring, including last weekend's Kansas Relays, Landon has set a personal best at 7-2 1/2 and nearly cleared 7-3 1/4.

With those accomplishments fresh in his mind, the Chester product has set his bar even higher: Rio de Janeiro, site of the 2016 Summer Olympics.

"It would be great, not only for me and my family, but the community," Landon said before practice earlier in the week. "Southern Illinois has always had tons of high jumpers. Seems like every day, you look back and there's always a high jumper from southern Illinois."

But one could make the argument that there's not been one with the current accomplishments or potential of Landon, a lanky 6-foot-4 lad with a body seemingly made to curl over a bar.

Starting in fourth grade, in part because he thought jumping over a bar onto a mat looked interesting, Landon quit baseball and began devoting lots of time to jumping. Over and over, he worked on technique and mastered heights until they became routine.

"If you consistently jump the same heights over and over," he said, "eventually you're going to become consistent."

That happened his sophomore year at Chester, when he suddenly evolved into a champion. He went into the year as a consistent 6-1 jumper who could occasionally pop a 6-4, but became a 6-10 jumper by season's end, and won the first of his three IHSA indoor high jump titles.

At that point, Landon realized he had something.

"I was like, 'Where did that come from?' Since that point, I knew I had a good future in track and field," he said.

Landon bagged indoor and outdoor state titles as a junior and senior at Chester, where he also ran cross country and played basketball. Last season, he was a double-figure scorer for a Yellow Jacket squad that won a regional basketball title.

Playing two other sports besides track and field gave Landon the mental toughness and cross-training to help him dominate at the prep level. Being able to zero in on just being a jumper at SIU is helping him extract extra inches.

"I've seen certain heights become easy," he said. "I look at certain heights as though they should be a practice bar for me. I think I've definitely gotten stronger and am continuing to work on form and technique."

Landon's short-term goal is to clear at least 7-3, if not 7-4, by season's end. Long-term? If he can turn 7-4 into 7-7 two years from now, the five rings and Rio may beckon.

"A couple of inches is still a pretty good jump," he said of his goal. "But it doesn't seem out of my capabilities."


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