“All remaining NSAA activity practices and competitions, including district and state competitions, have been cancelled for this school year.”
A tweet from the NSAA on April 2 announced the end of spring sports in high schools across the state. No more games or practices, and for seniors, no senior night and an abrupt end to their high school careers without the chance to take it in for the last time.
This tweet meant that track and field athlete Leena Hartung, like many other spring sports seniors, was not able to finish her high school career.
“It honestly didn’t feel real when they told us that it was over,” Hartung said. “I had a feeling there was a strong chance we might not get a season but once I saw it in writing, that’s when it really hit.”
Hartung was ready for her final season pole vaulting, working hard in the off-season to ensure she met her goals.
“I wanted to clear 10’, which is about a foot higher than my current personal record,” she said. “I was prepared to end my last year with a bang and finally felt like I was going to do well because I had put so much work in prior to.”
Even with a new pole vault coach for her senior year, Hartung was ready for the opportunity to vault one more season.
“”She has a confidence and work ethic about her that gave you the feeling it was going to be a great year! This confidence and work ethic will help her be successful at any challenge she faces in the future,” pole vault coach Patrick Chandler said.
Hartung attended camps at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln and Midland University multiple times a month, training with pole vaulters from around the state, as well as college coaches.
“She had a very high athletic IQ, which helped her adjust to new techniques very quickly,” Midland University coach Joel Leindecker said. “Not only has she improved physically, but her understanding of the pole vault has grown as well.”
Hartung started vaulting half-way through her first season sophomore year after realizing she no longer enjoyed running long distance.
“During the season she [said she] wanted to try the pole vault, “girls track coach Monte Scheef said. “Coach Daryl Jahn (our pole vault coach at the time) put her on a “crash” course to learn the technique it would take here to be able to attempt pole vaulting in a meet.”
While she received a scholarship offer from Midland University to take her pole vaulting to the next level, she ultimately decided to go to the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
“I decided not to take [the offer] because I thought that UNO was a better fit, despite not being able to continue vaulting. This decision was made with the belief that I would still get my senior season, so part of me almost wishes I would’ve accepted so that I wouldn’t have to be done vaulting just yet,” Hartung said.
Without the ability to finish out her season, Hartung reflects on her years of vaulting at MN.
“I wish I would’ve taken the chance to physically try and jump more than I did and try to achieve my goal of 10’ before everything was shut down,” she said. “It’s hard having that left unknown and unachieved.”
Though Hartung’s vaulting career came to an abrupt end, she has some advice for other athletes.
“I would advise other athletes not to wait before they get serious,” Hartung said. “Just don’t take anything for granted. Don’t wait to start because it could be taken away at any time.”