Athlete of the Week: Pole vaulter Peter Lichtenberger reflects on his record-breaking indoor season

| Junior Sports Editor

In his first collegiate season, Peter Lichtenberger set a WashU program record. (Sam Powers | Student Life)

Washington University first-year Peter Lichtenberger had a standout indoor track and field season. At the NCAA Division III Indoor Track and Field Championships, he set a new WashU record in the pole vault and finished fifth in the national meet. In his first college season, he held the eight-highest mark in pole vault in Division III. Student Life sat down with Lichtenberger to discuss his life outside of pole vaulting, his love for track and field, and his future goals. 

The interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

Student Life (SL): It would be great if you could start with a quick introduction of yourself.

Peter Lichtenberger (PL): I am a first-year student studying at WashU and currently on the track team. I pole vault under Coach Lane Lohr, and I’m trying to become a chemical engineer. I’m currently in the College of Arts and Sciences, battling through Gen Chem and all the fantastic courses but enjoying them as I go and just getting the hang of the whole college life so far. 

SL: Besides academics and athletics, what are some of your favorite pastimes and things that you enjoy doing?

PL: I really enjoy anything outdoors: hiking and hunting are awesome. I was on a rock climbing team for a lot of years, and I did do it competitively, but in the end, it was mostly just for fun. I love to play a good game of pool. Ping pong is also fantastic, something that I used to do with my close friends in high school. Now, I find that most of my time is quite honestly taken up by academics and athletics. It’s a busy, busy time of life for scholar champions.

SL: Could you talk more about your history with track and field and how you first got involved with the sport? 

PL: Actually, I went to a high school where we didn’t have PE; instead, we just had a sports requirement. So every student either had to waiver for a different sport, or run for the school. When I was younger, I did gymnastics, but then as I got older, due to injury and just ridiculous time requirements, I switched to rock climbing. That did not fulfill all of the sports requirements, so I was just like, well, I got to do something, and I kind of just went to track. In high school, my coach whom I love dearly, his name is Charlie O’Rourke. He just was like, we have a female pole vaulter, and we have no male pole vaulter, and that’s a lot of points on the board that we’re not getting. So, he kind of surveyed the crowd of us high school athletes and was like who’s not going to die, and will maybe clear a bar? He looked at me, who had a history with weird shenanigans and sports, and went ‘you’ and then he kind of pointed at me. From there, I kind of just took a stab at it. I went to a club, a pole vault club, did pretty well on my first day, and kind of just kept going at it because it was fun.

SL: Now, as a first-year at WashU, you’re having a really great season thus far. How’s the transition been from high school sports to college sports? 

PL: I would say college sports are definitely a lot better, but also more intense. We have an incredibly close team here that has a really good atmosphere of being supportive and cheering. There’s also a lot of time to commit, which can at times be hard, but I mean everyone chooses to do the things that they love and you got to make effort and sacrifices here. So, I’d say it’s definitely worth it.

SL: That is great to hear. Are you enjoying being a scholar athlete at WashU? 

PL: I am deeply loving the team and the team atmosphere. I also really enjoy training and competing. It is a lot of time — just as a blunt statement. Missing days like Fridays or weekends, long bus trips, and all-day meets is definitely hard. But I think I’m gonna keep doing it for the next four years because it’s something that I love.

SL: How did you feel when you set a new school record in the pole vault at indoor nationals? 

PL: I felt absolutely elated. If you look around, there is a photo that encapsulates it really, really well. And it’s me, right after I’ve made it, the pole vault is still leaning against the pit, and I’m on the side of it. You can just see me with my arms down to the sides, just absolutely screaming. I just shouted ‘Let’s go’ pretty much as loud as humanly possible, and it felt absolutely amazing.

SL: The team recently finished the indoor part of the season and now are starting the outdoor season. Which one do you prefer?

PL: Definitely indoor season; quite honestly, it is more of just a personal preference. Most track athletes prefer outdoors but as a vaulter, I prefer having incredibly consistent conditions indoors as there’s no wind, there’s no temperature, there’s no sun in your eyes, there’s no rain or other external factors, which is super nice, because it’s really just about consistency and how well you can repeat the same thing and make your average improve. That’s a lot easier to do when the conditions are consistent. 

SL: What do you hope to contribute to the team in the next three years? What are some personal goals you have in mind? 

PL: For the team as a whole, I just kind of want to continue the competitive spirit, and the camaraderie that the team has at the moment is really nice. For individual goals, I want to break the outdoor record. It is kind of a lofty goal, but it is my goal for this outdoor season. I think it would be really awesome to set both [indoor and outdoor records] as a freshman. That’d be really incredible, but short of that, I kind of just want to improve my personal consistency in jumps. 

SL: For this last question, we ask all of the Student Life Athletes of the Week this question. Would you rather have fish for hands or adopt a child every time you hear “Bohemian Rhapsody”?

PL: Oh, do I get to pick the kind of fish?

SL: Wait, you’re going for the fish? I mean, sure. 

PL: Well, okay, if you can stretch the bounds of what you consider a fish, you could probably get some pretty cool hands. But also, what do we count as a fish? Is it anything living in the ocean or does it have to actually be a fish? 

SL: Yeah, an actual fish with maybe the head or tail as hands. 

PL: Then, I think I have to adopt a child as having hands makes general life a lot easier, personally speaking.

SL: Also, pole vaulting. 

PL: Yeah, I don’t think the fish heads or tails would be the best to hold on to a pole. 

SL: Perfect, thank you, Peter. Would you like to add anything else? 

PL: [I would like to give] credit to track coaches, especially coach Lane Lohr, he’s incredible. He’s the pole vault coach, and he’s just awesome.

2024 AOTW Tracker: Adopt a Child 4, Fish for Hands 2

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