BOISE — How do you celebrate a repeat as 4A girls state track champions and an eighth consecutive year of bringing home a first-place team trophy from Boise?
For the 2014 Rigby High School girls track team Saturday, it involved plenty of celebratory selfies, a victory lap around the Dona Larsen Park track while carrying the trophy and head coach James Parrish debuting of a pair of maroon and gold shoes his wife knit for him.
Having seen her make several pairs of similar shoes for their grandchildren, Parrish asked her to make a Rigby-themed pair complete with the Trojans logo on the sides to save for such an occasion.
“I put them on on the bus trying to get the kids relaxed on the way over,” Parrish said. “They said, ‘You’ve got to wear these.’ I said ‘I will if they win.’ ”
A year after winning the program’s first girls blue trophy since 2009 thanks to a large senior class, the Trojans kept the title in Rigby thanks to a combination of multi-event winning seniors and underclassmen alike. Achieving a repeat within a repeat that made her the talk of Dona Larsen Park was sophomore sprinter Elsja Mecham, who won four state track gold medals for the second year in a row.
On Friday, Mecham anchored the state champion 800 sprint medley relay team to a winning time of 1:48.28. She completed her weekend Saturday by defending her 100-meter hurdles title in a personal-best and 4A state record time of 14.20, repeating as 400 champion in 57 seconds flat and winning the 300 hurdles in a 4A state record time of 42.93.
Even after standing atop the podium four times in two days, the reality of eight golds in two years hadn’t quite set in for the sophomore, who aspires to clinch a spot at this summer’s World Junior Track Championships in Eugene, Ore., and win 16 golds by the time she graduates.
“It’s almost indescribable,” Mecham said. “It’s like a dream come true. When I was in eighth grade, I dreamed of being a back-to-back state champion and getting gold in everything.”
This was the first season Mecham competed in the 300 hurdles, and that win made her especially proud. She and older brother Scott, who graduated in 2012 and is serving an LDS mission in Eugene, Ore., now hold the 4A state 300 hurdle records.
“I’m really excited to write him a letter and tell him how I did,” Mecham said.
Parrish, who has been Rigby’s head track coach since 2006 and has taught at Rigby even longer, said he can recall a small number of track athletes who have won four golds at consecutive state track meets. Watching Mecham compete, however, gives him ‘wow’ moments all the time.
“I want to have her autograph before she’s done (at Rigby) because I think it’ll be belonging to somebody who is pretty famous in track and field,” Parrish said with a laugh. “When you have such an elite athlete that impresses the whole crowd, it’s a blessing to have that on your team.”
The first to hold the team trophy were seniors Eliza Shippen and Hailey Stone, who closed out their Trojans athletic careers with medals in multiple events.
The first thing Shippen did after clearing 11-4 to defend her 4A girls state pole vault title was give her father and coach, Troy, a long hug. Freshman sister and sixth-place pole vaulter, Olivia, gave her a hug just as emotional a few minutes later.
The graduating Shippen leaves Rigby as the program record holder, and she’s now headed to BYU as a cheerleader in the fall.
“When I was lying in the pit, even though I won, it brought tears to my eyes,” Shippen said. “It’s awesome having my dad out there saying, ‘Just vault’ and my sister saying ‘I love you.’ “
Stone took fifth in long jump (15-7.25), third in 300 hurdles (46.61), fifth in 100 hurdles (16.40) and lunged forward at the finish to give Rigby the win over Bishop Kelly in the 4x200 with a time of 1:44.89.
“I knew she was right next to me,” Stone said. “I thought, “Go for it, run for the gold.’ I couldn’t be happier with the result.”
Saturday was bittersweet for Stone, who is pursuing a career in physical therapy and turned down offers from Division II and community college track programs. The weekend was Stone’s first time competing at state completely healthy, and she relished it.
“I got done with my 300 hurdles race and I was close to tears,” Stone said. “This track team has been the closest thing to a second family for me.”