Annika Gunderson breaks indoor pole vault record
March 18, 2023
Freshman Annika Gunderson is only in her second semester at UW-River Falls, but she has already become one of the prominent faces in the athletic program and cemented her legacy by fracturing a long-standing school record.
Gunderson broke the UWRF women’s indoor pole vault record at two separate meets this year, first at the height of 3.68 meters and second at an astounding 3.81 meters. The NCAA took notice, and on March 5, Gunderson qualified for the 2023 DIII Indoor Track and Field Championships.
When diving into her history of physical commitment and prolonged success, it’s not difficult to conclude how she’s quickly become one of River Falls’s most accomplished athletes.
Gunderson comes from Forest Lake, Minnesota, where she saw athletic achievement throughout high school. She came from a gymnastics background, and her coach recommended track and field to condition in the offseason. This eventually took her away from gymnastics and revealed her potential to become a track and field star.
Gunderson developed a passion for pole vaulting during her freshman year of high school, which soon became her main athletic ambition. She broke the Forest Lake High School women’s pole vault record during her senior year and set a new standard for her future meets. After graduating, Gunderson was unready to give up her athletic career and committed to River Falls for her future.
Gunderson said that the track and field program was a major factor in her decision to attend UWRF. She described college athletics as a bigger physical commitment than high school but also recognizes the benefit of extra practice. Gunderson describes her team as “supportive” and filled with people who “show that they care about you.” She also recognizes the difference in dedication levels at River Falls compared to high school, saying that “everyone here wants to be on the team” and that she, especially, is “grateful for the opportunity.”
Gunderson said that she knew of UWRF’s pole vault records and ultimately hoped to break one of them.
“If you’re coming here, you might as well know what the best of the best have done,” she said. “My goal was to break one before graduating.” Fortunately for her, it wouldn’t take four years, only four months.
UWRF participated in an indoor track meet on January 21 at UW-Superior. Gunderson gave River Falls their best vault on record, beating the former holder Riley Claude by 0.01 meters. Gunderson said that before the vault, her coaches advised her to raise it slightly above the record. Once over the bar, Gunderson described the descent as “feeling unreal.” She became the new record holder, vaulting over a height of 3.68 meters.
Only three weeks later, on Feb. 11, Gunderson broke the record again at a River Falls home meet. This time, she increased the record to 3.81 meters. Gunderson was named Female Falcon of the Week twice in one month and officially became one of UWRF’s highest-performing athletes.
Gunderson’s school records highlight significant achievements, but they also highlight substantial work. At UWRF, she’s double-majoring in elementary education and Spanish education while also hoping to graduate early. Track and field practices run five days a week and throughout the school-wide breaks. During the one-month winter break for students, Gunderson frequently drove the two-hour round trip to attend practice. Gunderson described her track career as a “healthy obsession” and recognizes the heavy workload that accompanies her legacy.
Though already highly accomplished, Gunderson’s passion and drive outweigh her satisfaction. She never wants to quit pole vaulting and has serious plans to become a coach after graduation. As for her remaining years at UW-River Falls, she’ll be looking to increase her school record, ensuring that it remains untouched for years to come.