By Jack Barger ’01

Lindsey Kluesener has always been a high flyer.

As a young girl, she was involved with gymnastics, and as a result, she most often could be found flying through the air, launched by the force of her own legs and staunch determination. Even so, there were aspirations to go even higher, and, with the help of a new sport and her father’s advice, she would find a new way to get airborne.

“My dad suggested that I try pole vaulting just for fun, so I did, and ended up loving it right away,” said Kluesener. “I jumped ten feet my first year vaulting in high school and twelve my second, junior year, which opened my eyes to the possibility of vaulting in college.” University of Findlay pole vaulting Coach Dillon reached out to her in the fall of her senior year, she explained, and after a long decision-making process, she signed to the University in February 2019.

“This is a girl that had cleared twelve feet in her high school career and it was when she was a junior,” Dillon said of Kluesener. “When I started recruiting her, I saw something in her and I just had this pull that she had to be a part of our program.”

Kluesener and the rest of the vault squad at UF were poised to have a successful season, Dillon said, as the progress and growth of the young team was already beginning to show itself.  “We were ranked as the 6th best vault squad in DII for the indoor season,” he said. “The oldest vaulter on the women’s vault squad is a sophomore. Lindsey was heading into nationals ranked 11th and as the number one freshman in the nation.”

Alongside Kluesener was Meadow Cromer, ranked 23rd in the nation, and Morgan England, ranked 26th. The team was flying collectively, coming off of the conference meet where they placed 1st (Kluesener), 2nd (England), and tied for 3rd (Cromer). The plan, Dillon said, was to get Kluesener to nationals, “take care of business,” and head into the outdoor season with team confidence soaring.

However, like so many other sporting events at colleges across the globe, it all came to a sudden halt with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic. After a practice at the host site for indoor nationals in Birmingham, Alabama, Dillon and Kluesener received word that everything was shut down and the meet was cancelled. It was a disappointing end to a promising season, but, like any true athlete and coach, after a quick period of grief, the focus was placed cleanly on the future.

Kluesener, who finished the season with a conference win and a new personal and UF record of thirteen feet and two inches, is grateful, she said, for the extra few months of off season. “I’m excited to take advantage of the extra time to focus on really getting my mind and body in shape and prepared for next year,” she said.

Dillon isn’t surprised at Kluesener’s positivity and drive. He said that she was already an elite vaulter when she arrived at UF, she just needed to believe it. “Once we removed the mental barriers she had been placing in front of herself, her confidence grew and the bars kept climbing. It is going to be really exciting to see what she can accomplish next season.”

“Overall, the past year of my life has been such a blessing, Kluesener said. “I never expected to be where I am today, in health and spirit. I have my parents, teammates, Coach Dillon, and ultimately God to thank for all of it.”