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Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Sports

Stockholm to Houston: The Klara Mattsson Journey


After reaching the finals at the IAAF World U20 Championships, Klara Mattsson has come to Houston to provide a massive boost for the Cougars | Courtesy UH Athletics

The track community was well aware that July 2016 was an eventful month for the Cougars.

A trio of sophomores, sprinter Mario Burke, hurdler Amere Lattin and mid-distance runner Brian Bell, all reached the finals of the IAAF World U20 Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland. While the veterans were offered an opportunity to showcase their talents, the meet provided a proving ground for one of the track teams’ newest members.

Freshman pole vaulter Klara Mattsson from Sweden was one of the twelve women who competed in the finals at Bydgoszcz. While still in high school, she was given an opportunity to test herself against world class athletes.

“It was an amazing experience,” Mattsson said. “(Bydgoszcz) was a special experience, not like any other meet that I’ve competed in, really. It was really fun and making it to the finals was really cool.”

Coming to America

Although she didn’t leave the competition with a medal, Mattsson’s time in Poland only increased her value as an athlete on the roster. Her arrival in Houston was a big boost for a unit that was not a major factor last year.

The seed that led Mattsson to Houston was planted by freshman Anna Larsson. A Swedish multi-event athlete from Canada, Larsson had known Mattsson from her years in Sweden.

When Larsson had made the decision to compete for the Cougars, she suggested that Mattsson make contact, too.

Assistant head coach Kyle Tellez had an extensive email conversation with Mattsson, where the two went over her interests and goals. From there, the two made sure all her schooling and her classes were organized; it was not an easy process, but they got it done.

“It’s good,” Tellez said. “I think for her to be coming from a high school situation in Sweden, to come over here to the states is a big transition. She has done a great job. It’s been a little harder than someone from the states that’s already here.”

Immediate impact

Last year, the pole vaulters were not a major point-scoring unit for the women. Were it not for Mattsson’s arrival, health and human performance sophomore Haley Houston would have been the only woman competing in the event.

Results are already showing this season after the duo have placed in the top three and top five in the first two meets, respectively.

Mattsson also serves as a training partner for Houston, pushing her to be better every day at practice. The pole vaulters are feeling the same boost of talent that the rest of the women have felt from the recent recruiting class.

“It’s definitely a lot more fun whenever you have someone that jumps a relatively close height as you,” Houston said. “You can look at what you guys do differently and judge off that.”

So far, Mattsson has yet to match her personal best of 4.15m, her qualifying height at the IAAF World U20 Championships. Both her and Houston’s season high came at the Reveille Invitational where she jumped 3.76m.

If she and the other pole vaulters follow Coach Tellez’s message of just working one meet at a time, then good things should happen.

“I haven’t been jumping the heights that I jumped earlier, but I’m hoping to get it all timed up and jump higher soon,” Mattsson said. “(I want) to see the things that I’ve worked on this fall actually work when I’m competing.”

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