Hannah Linder - Apple Valley-Rosemount Patch: Apple Valley Athlete of the Year Flies Higher and Higher

 Posted by Troy Thompson , January 03, 2012 at 02:20 AM

Apple Valley Athlete of the Year Flies Higher and Higher
Apple Valley High School junior Hannah Linder's pole vaulting accomplishments are getting more and more attention—whether she wants it or not.


Pole vaulting doesn't usually get the flashy headlines typically reserved for more mainstream sports.

Maybe that explains why junior Hannah Linder had no idea what she was getting into when she was recruited to become a pole vaulter her freshman year.

"I didn't even know it existed," said Linder, who was chosen as the Apple Valley Patch's Athlete of the Year for 2011.

To those familiar with Linder's athletic accomplishments and the way she pursues her goals, earning recognition via a headline for pole vaulting is no surprise at all.

"She is more driven and more dedicated than anyone I've ever met," said Apple Valley track and field coach Jamie Steffen. "She has all the elements to become an elite-level athlete. If she continues to progress, we could be looking at something really special here."

Linder, as modest as she is talented, said she immediately took to pole vaulting after Steffen recruited her.

"I'm a soccer player so I took track to help stay in shape for that," Linder said. "I think I took to it right away because it was so different. I really liked it and flying in the air."

Like Linder herself, her abilities were modest at first; she vaulted 8-feet 6-inches as a freshman. But after working out during the offseason with club coaches at Fuzion Athletics in Burnsville, Linder's personal best height began to climb... and climb... and climb.

That rapid advancement has also led to some traveling adventure for Linder, as Steffen—himself an elite pole vaulter—has helped plug her into some of the major events held across the country.

"She had a meet last year in Reno at the National Pole Vault Summit," Steffen said. "She went in with a really low height and came out ranked as the highest sophomore in the country."

Linder vaulted a height of 12-feet 4-inches at that meet, Steffen said—a dramatic increase over her seventh-place 2011 state meet finish of 11 feet.

In mid-December, Linder traveled to St. Louis to compete at the World Pole Vault Expo, an event held in the perfect windless conditions of an old underground mine.

She finished first out of more than 100 competitors in the high school division at that event.

Due to that performance, she was invited to participate in the elite competition a few hours later and finished second against top national and international athletes.

"She's been in the right place at the right time," Steffen said, "and she's starting to get national attention."

Attention is something Linder neither seeks nor craves. The soft-spoken athlete seems to take her success and new-found pole vaulting notoriety in stride.

"I just want to go out and do better than I did last year and have fun," she said.

Linder's combination of natural athletic ability, drive and determination have helped her to set her sights on one day contending for an Olympic medal.

"Hopefully," she said. "If I keep working hard, maybe."

Working hard is something Linder is also good at. An honor roll student, Linder starts her day with 5 a.m. practices, studies and does homework after school, then trains some more once the schoolwork is done.

She also manages to squeeze in about 20 hours a week working and volunteering at Fuzion Athletics to help earn money for equipment and travel expenses to the national meets.

"She volunteers her time, she puts in a ton of hours there," Steffen said. "She's just trying to get dimes and nickels to pay for trips, to buy airplane tickets and buy equipment and do all that stuff that she needs to get done. She goes after it. Whatever it takes, she finds a way to get it done."

And if that schedule wasn't heavy enough, she also helps mentor 8- to 13-year old kids interested in track and field.

"The kids love her," said Steffen. "She's always willing to help them out. She's a motivator, a real positive person to be around. They want to be like her."

Hannah Linder: A straight 'A' student, community volunteer, hard worker, motivator, elite athlete and positive role model.

That might be enough to make the modest Apple Valley Patch Athlete of the Year blush.