When two brothers play the same sport, one might assume that there might be a sibling rivalry between them. But that isn’t the case for Sondre and Simen Guttormsen.
“I’ve never really felt as if we’re competitors. Sure, we are competing, but I always want him to do well regardless of how I do,” senior pole vaulter Sondre Guttormsen told The Daily Princetonian.
“Whenever I PR, Sondre is very happy for me, and when he PR’s, I’m very happy for him,” senior pole vaulter Simen Guttormsen said, using the shorthand for personal record. “We’re always competing more against the heights than each other.”
Living just 100 meters from a track in Norway, Sondre and Simen grew up in the track and field world. Their father, Atle Guttormsen, also trained in track and field events. Atle always reveled in the idea of pole vaulting but didn’t pursue it because he didn’t have a coach. When the two brothers were young, he made them try the event, and soon, the Guttormsen family was constantly at the track, with Atle training the two boys.
Since coming to Princeton, the two brothers have made NCAA and Ivy League history. Sondre was the 2022 NCAA indoor and outdoor pole vault champion, and he holds the Ivy League pole vault records on both the indoor and outdoor track.
Simen also holds top-five NCAA marks on the year with 5.65m in the outdoor season and 5.56m in the indoor season. He also finished fourth in the NCAA Indoor and Outdoor Championships for the 2022–21 season.
This past weekend at the New Mexico Collegiate Invitational, Sondre demolished his Ivy Record pole vault, with a vault of 5.90 meters. This effort from Sondre is the fifth highest jump in NCAA history.
“Knowing that I've improved myself and that I’ve gotten better since the last few years means more to me than knowing it was the highest jump of the year. The season’s still young,” Sondre said. “I think that jump in New Mexico really made me realize that training has been working and it has been going in the right direction.”
“Every ten centimeters is an achievement,” Sondre continued. “Your name is always related to the amount of meters you're jumping. I went from a 5.80 [meter] jumper to a 5.90 [meter] jumper and I think that’s really cool.”
“I’ve seen him in training, and I know he’s been improving. It was very fun to see that happen, and I think there’s even more to be done,” Simen commented on his brother’s accomplishment.
During his sophomore year, Sondre transferred from UCLA to Princeton to join Simen on the track. It was Simen who ultimately convinced Sondre to make the move. “I took his word for it and trusted him. The opportunity to train with him and train with the team here is the main reason why I decided to come,” Sondre said. “There’s a good track team, coaching staff, and support system.”
Though the two are in the same graduating class, they are not twins, with Sondre born in 1999 and Simen in 2000. Although the life of a student-athlete can be challenging, the two brothers feel they balance it well. “There are more benefits than drawbacks in student-athlete life,” Sondre told the ‘Prince.’
“I think academic and athletic life are both important. There is a set time and place for track. For me, I don’t worry about school when I’m on the track. You have to manage your time correctly,” Simen said.
“You can’t do everything. I can’t take the most interesting or challenging courses just because I know that it’s going to be hard to balance. I’ve made some sacrifices in not taking the most challenging classes for the future,” Sondre added.
“As an athlete, you may not have as much time doing other events with your friends,” said Simen. “Sometimes you miss out because you have meets or practice. But, we enjoy so much of what we’re doing that it’s not a sacrifice that we have to make.”
The Guttormsen brothers also have an impressive drive to keep themselves motivated in such a difficult sport. “It’s more of a want than a need. And with that, you want to get better. To perform better, you want to do it,” Simen said.
“You need to love your sport and not think about winning all the time. You have to actually enjoy the whole process of putting in the hours on the track and in the weight room. If you have a big passion for that, it’s not hard to be focused because it’s what you really enjoy doing,” said Sondre.
“Sure, the external motivation, the medals and winning, it helps. But without that internal passion and motivation to do the work, you’re not going to be a good performer,” he added.
When the brothers are not in the classroom, they live as professional athletes in Norway, traveling throughout Europe and competing in international events during the summer. Their father is also there to coach them. “When we compete all over Europe, he’s always with us,” Sondre said.
Looking to the upcoming spring season, the two brothers want to continue performing to the best of their abilities. “I’ve had the best start of my season that I could ever imagine. Just continuing that will be amazing. In terms of results and achievements, I’m trying to win another indoor title. For the championship, the most important thing is to win, no matter how high I jump,” Sondre said.
Sondre also aspires to achieve the collegiate record of six meters. “As a kid, six meters was a dream that I thought was impossible. Only about 20 guys have done that in history. It would be a goal and a dream to do that. I want to win, that’s the number one goal, and afterward, I want to win again. Not only for myself but for the team,” he said.
Simen added, “I just want to keep jumping higher. I’m hoping the team does well. We want to win the Ivy League conference championships. We should be able to do it if everything goes our way. If we do, then we win the triple crown (winning cross country, indoor, and outdoor track and field), which would be very cool. It’s both our last years here, so it would be really cool to end on a good note with the team and individual performances.”
After graduating, the two brothers will be pursuing master’s degrees at University of Texas at Austin to continue competing in the NCAA. After that, their goal is to compete professionally and potentially receive international, world, and Olympic medals as well.
“We have good chances of making the Norway Olympic team. We have more goals than just simply making it. I think I’m at the level of having goals to get a medal, and Simen getting to the final and doing the best he can there,” Sondre said.
But for now, the two brothers look forward with bright eyes as the 2023 spring outdoor season approaches. Simen is still recovering from an injury and will continue to train and prepare until he is ready to compete. Sondre is excited for what’s to come. “Last year we got first and fourth place at the NCAA Championships. This year, we want to maximize our points in getting first and second,“ he said. “I don’t think many brothers from the same school in the same event have gone one and two, and that’d be pretty sick.”
Dana Serea is a staff writer for the Sports section at the ‘Prince.’ Please direct any corrections requests to corrections[at]dailyprincetonian.com.