FAIRFIELD — The defending Class 3A state high jump champion will be a Northern Iowa Panther next school year. Landon Kooiker made his decision official on Thursday when he signed his letter of intent to join the UNI track and field team.
“There is only a handful of athletes that compete in high school track and field, and only about five percent go on to compete, and even less at the Division 1 level,” Kooiker said. “It’s kind of crazy thinking that I’m going to be one of those guys that is going to go and compete, and hopefully compete well. I’m looking forward to strengthening their jump squad, and I’m looking forward to starting to get to work here pretty soon.”
Kooiker, who jumped six-foot seven-inches says started getting looked at by UNI, amongst other schools, after his break out junior year.
“I was kind of a late bloomer,” Kooiker said. “I only started jumping my sophomore year, so then when I started jumping well last year, schools kind of took notice. Iowa, UNI and Central made sure to let me know that I had all the time that I need. I just took my time with where I wanted to go. I visited all the schools many times, and once it started getting towards the end where I started to feel like I was ready to make a decision, UNI just kind of stuck out.”
Kooiker signed his letter with his parents and track and field coaches in attendance. Head coach Brian Dunlap said he could see the potential in Kooiker right away.
“He moved in as a sophomore and was an instant impact right away,” Dunlap said. “Of course, we had no background on what he could do, but we saw him dunking in the gym and it was pretty easy to see.”
Dunlap also spoke to Kooiker’s work ethic, which he said helped position him to becoming a Division 1 athlete.
“He’s dedicated to the sport of track” Dunlap said. “He’s one of those kids that puts in the extra time. When everybody is gone, he’s down high jumping. And it takes that extra effort to do that.”
Kooiker says since he fully immersed himself in the high jump life over the last two years, making it his chief focus to get better and better at the sport he loves.
“I’ve done a lot of camps. I’ve done a lot of research,” Kooiker said. “For public speaking classes, I’ll do speeches on high jump. English classes, I write papers on high jump. I’ve started to really adapt into a high jumper’s lifestyle and really immerse myself into the whole high jump realm.”
When he gets to college, Kooiker says he plans on studying physics.
“I enjoy math, and high jump is a lot of physics,” Kooiker said. “It’s something I can relate to.”
With hope, Kooiker will be able to get a chance to defend his state championship this year, if and when the Corona Virus, and the fallout of the virus, begins to wash away.