Saluki track and field legend returns to coach, road to 2020 Olympic Games

By Tamar Mosby, Sports Reporter

A series of new hires for the Saluki Track and Field has welcomed new faces to the coaching staff this season including a very familiar face to Saluki athletics – legendary high jumper Kyle Landon.

The SIU alumni was brought on staff as a volunteer assistant coach early January.

“I was ecstatic to hear that Kyle was moving back to the area and was open to helping with our program,” said Rosalind Joseph, SIU Track and Field Director. “He brings a wealth of competitive experience and knowledge that will resonate with our current Salukis.”

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Landon graduated from Southern in 2017 and has recently returned to the region to be closer to family.

“When my wife and I found out that we were having our second baby that changed everything financially,” Landon said. “We had a small pregnancy complication and we moved back to be around family.”

The high jumper has been welcomed back to town with open arms by Saluki athletics staff and fans, seeing as he had tremendous amounts of success in his collegiate career.

“He has an impressive resume of wins, experience at every competitive level and he is still competing so he can relate on that level as well,” Joseph said. “People around this town love Kyle and his ability to connect with anyone.”

During his time at SIU, Landon competed as a field athlete, participating in the long, high and triple jump events.

Despite competing successfully in three field events, Landon achieved a majority of this success in the high jump.

“I miss being apart of Saluki track’s historic success,” Landon said. “It’s good to know down the road that I was a part of it.”

Landon’s collegiate career is filled with various awards while he earned MVC indoor and outdoor titles in the high jump for four years straight and also picked up All-MVC honors in the triple and long jump.

The three event jumper dominated the Valley track conference receiving MVC Field Athlete of the Week 11 times, MVC Most Outstanding Field Athlete four times and MVC Most Valuable Athlete two times during his career.

Landon was not limited to dominating in the MVC as he was a five-time All-American in the high jump and made several appearances in NCAA and USATF meets.

The All-American hails from Chester, Illinois which lies about 50 minutes outside of the Carbondale area.

“I first started high jumping in fifth grade,” Landon said. “I think I’ve been so successful in the event because I have been doing it for a long time and I have switched my mind as an athlete to the point where I am able to notice the little things I need to do to get better.”

Before blazing a trail of success as a Saluki, Landon was a star track athlete at Chester High School and still currently holds records for two field events at the school.

During his time as a Chester Yellow Jacket, he won five state championships in the high jump (three indoor and two outdoor) and two state championships in the long jump (one indoor and one outdoor).

In his 2013 senior year, he was ranked second nationally in the indoor high jump and third nationally in the outdoor high jump.

He also received the Gatorade Illinois Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year Award and the Southern Illinois Track Athlete of the Year Award during his final high school season.

Landon expressed his excitement about becoming a volunteer coach and returning to his alma mater.

“I’m excited to be able to keep my foot in the door at SIU,” Landon said. “I’m also excited to learn from and be apart of the new coaching staff and be able to see what they bring into the program.”

Despite being a fresh face in the coaching game, the former Saluki star has already set goals for himself to achieve in his new job.

“I want to make sure I have a good relationship with my athletes but I also want them to know I’m pushing them every day,” Landon said. “My focus is just to make sure I have a purpose and that I’m making an impact.”

Not only has Landon’s new coaching position been a benefit to him, it has also helped Joseph in having some help juggling each event group. 

“He’s been a godsend,” Joseph said. “I felt that I wasn’t able to give each student-athlete the attention they deserved. Between, Kyle, myself and Coach Brigham – we are able to divide time up to give quality coaching. He comes in with a smile on his face and he’s always ready to help and teach.”

Current Saluki field athletes are also excited about the legend’s return and have already been able to gain knowledge from him.

“I’m excited that he knows the program and the event very well,” said Justine Patton, senior high jumper. “High jumping is his specialty so I know that we’re getting good training because of his experience.”

Landon likes what he is seeing so far from his athletes and several of the athletes have already achieved commendable amounts of progress and success this season.

“Everyone’s got a little bit more focus and want-to this year,” Landon said. “The athletes are training harder and looking much stronger. Once we can get them to slow things down more and get more repetitions, we’ll start seeing some really good things.”

As a coach Landon pushes his high jump athletes to pay attention to detail, which is a very large part of having success in the event.

“He is really good at letting us know what little details we need to work on,” Patton said. “It’s easier to adjust our approaches when we know exactly what we need to tweek.”

In addition to volunteer coaching for Southern, Landon is still competing in the high jump and is currently training in preparation for the 2020 Olympic Trials.

The world class athlete in no stranger to the trials, as he took home the silver medal in the 2016 Trials to close his junior collegiate campaign.

The All-American set a personal best of 2.26 meters at this meet (being only the fourth Saluki to do so) only missing the Olympic trials by one-third of an inch.

“I learned a lot from that experience,” Landon said. “With track being a four year cycle, it’s tough to be at 100% every year. I’ve learned to be a smarter athlete in terms of training and taking care of my body to maintain a good balance.”

Landon is currently training for the 2020 games with Cliff Rovelto, Kansas State Director of Track and Field.

Rovelto not only coached 16 athletes to NCAA titles in his 31 year career, he is a four time recipient of the Big 12 outdoor coach of the year award and served as an assistant coach to the USA Men’s Track and Field team in the 2016 Olympics.

“Last year I started working with Cliff Rovelto out of Kansas State,” Landon said. “This will be my first full year of going through his workouts and I realized that I have some mechanical issues. My focus for 2020 is on stability, mechanics and targeting specific muscle groups to get extra inches.”

Joseph feels that Landon currently being in competition adds to his coaching abilities and helps him to relate to his athletes.

“It’s always good for athletes to have the perspective of someone who’s been where they are,” Joseph said. “With him still training, it’s fun to watch that caliber of athlete.”

“Kyle is a good coach because he’s had a lot of experience with the high jump and he knows the in’s and out’s of it,” Patton said. “He knows what he’s talking about because he’s been there before.”

Landon’s move to Carbondale appears to be permanent and the track star is glad to be back at his former stomping grounds.

“The plan is to stay here long term now,” Landon said. “With two little ones it would be hard to train in another place. At the end of the day SIU is my home and I love this school and the team.”

After completing his competitive career, Landon plans to become a full-time track and field coach and Joseph feels that he would be amazing in this field of work.

“I’m excited to have him alongside me this season,” Joseph said. “After his competitive years, I think he can have a bright future as a coach in this sport.”

Sports reporter Tamar Mosby can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @mosbytamar.

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