Two brothers from Norway are poised to rewrite the Princeton and Ivy League pole vault records when they return to campus in the fall, leading what their coach says will be the best track and field team ever — not simply at Princeton, but in the Ivy League.
Sondre Guttormsen ’23, who transferred from UCLA, is the reigning three-time Norwegian national pole vault champion and national vault record holder. He has an Olympic berth virtually locked up. His younger brother, Simen Guttormsen ’23, is following close behind. This year both took their Princeton classes remotely from Norway, where they’ve continued to compete.
“They’re great kids,” said Fred Samara, head coach of Princeton men’s track and field. “Our whole team is like that.” He said his vault duo and the rest of the team will be fully ready to perform in 2022, when coaches hope full-scale competition will resume. Eighteen students on the team — four freshmen and 14 upperclassmen — took this year off from school.
“With those kids coming back next year to join the others,” Samara said, “they’re going to be a joy to watch.”
Simen, 20, and Sondre, 21, began pole vaulting when they were children. Their father, an athlete himself, encouraged them but didn’t know much about the sport, Sondre said. “We kind of grew together into a coaching/athlete relationship.”
Before long, Sondre was performing at the international level. When he started setting junior records in Norway and doing well against Europeans his own age, he said, “I think that was when I really understood that if I just keep working hard and keep up with this progress, I can follow in their footsteps and do just as well.” Sondre holds the Norwegian national pole vault record at 19 feet, ¼ inch.
Simen, the Norwegian under-18 and under-20 vault champion in 2018 and 2019, said he has been inspired by his older brother’s success. He has improved every year, from a personal best jump of 13 feet, 10 inches when Samara recruited him to a recent 17 feet, 11¾ inches.
Sondre began his collegiate career at UCLA, winning the 2019 Pac-12 outdoor vault title as a freshman. During Sondre’s sophomore year, Simen, then a freshman at Princeton, “explained how Princeton worked academically and how it would be a great fit for me,” Sondre said. He also learned about the Tiger team culture. “Simen is a person who knows me the best. If he says I’ll be fine there academically and athletically, I knew I would enjoy it as well.” In time, Sondre joined Simen in the Class of ’23, although he has yet to set foot on campus.
Since enrolling at Princeton, both brothers have topped the Ivy League’s current indoor pole vault record of 17 feet, 11¼ inches in official competitions overseas. But due to a pandemic oddity, those jumps have yet to be written into the league’s record books. Princeton, however, has recognized Sondre’s February clearance of 18 feet, 10 inches, as the new University indoor record.
Working together, the brothers have discovered a key ingredient that has enhanced their pole vault success: They replaced customary sibling rivalry with fraternal support.
“We are like most competitors, but most of all we are training partners,” said Sondre. “That’s one of the main reasons why I transferred to Princeton. We both just want to jump as high as possible.”