Skyline High School senior Zackary Lott will have Saturday, May 18, 2019, burned into his mind for a long time.
A day after being sick with food poisoning, Lott placed sixth in the pole vault finals at the 4A track and field state championships to give three points to Skyline and send the Grizzlies past three-time defending champion Bishop Kelly 68-66 for first place in the final team standings.
His sixth place finish gave Skyline its first ever state championship in boys track and ensured that the Grizzlies would leave the meet with two trophies. The girls placed second to Bishop Kelly with 67 points. The state trophies are the first for Skyline track since 2006 and they are the first for an Idaho Falls city school since 2009.
Skyline head coach Chase Meyer said Lott entered pole vault finals unaware that the state championship was up to him. Then Lott overheard Meyer speaking to other coaches behind the fence of the pole vault area about the team standings.
"When I overheard Meyer talking to the coaches and he told me I needed to at least get eighth place so we could get a point to tie or seventh place and get two points and win the title, it pretty much stressed me out," Lott said Monday by phone.
A large crowd of athletes had gathered to watch as well. Due to rain moving all but two field event finals from Friday to Saturday, 4A boys pole vault was the last event of the entire 5A/4A meet. Bishop Kelly led Skyline 66-65 following a second-place finish in the 200, but had no boys pole vaulters. Lott said Skyline's boys and girls teams were among the crowd, which also featured eastern Idaho schools Idaho Falls, Blackfoot and Pocatello. Lott said the video of his final vaults captured how loud the crowds were, and he wasn't used to that or a crowd that large.
"My mom and my grandpa watch me pole vault," Lott said. "Nobody has ever really seen me pole vaulting. Everybody was there waiting for me. Everybody would rather have Skyline win over BK."
Lott said he talked to the other pole vaulters to keep himself from getting nervous by his audience. He asked everyone to quiet down once he prepared to go down the runway, and it became dead silent. Once he cleared 13 feet to ensure sixth place, silence was replaced with erupting cheers and pressure faded into elation.
Lott said Skyline's state title wouldn't have been possible without 'our great coaches,' adding that Saturday was easily the top highlight of his track career.
"We were all so happy and smiling," Lott said. "I was just thanking everybody. I am super excited to see how long I can keep this memory with me. I think I'm gonna hold on to this and hopefully tell my kids and grandkids and tell them about track."
Meyer said he knew the boys in the class of 2019 had potential upon arrival at Skyline. By their sophomore seasons, he envisioned them competing for a trophy. Shortly after the conclusion of the 2018 state championships, Meyer scoured the results to figure out who was returning for each team at 4A state track. It became apparent that the Grizzlies could contend for the boys title versus Bishop Kelly, who would not be as deep in 2019, and be in the trophy hunt on the girls side.
"Thursday I told them in the hotel room, you don't have to be superman or superwoman," Meyer said. "They all did what they needed to do."
Meyer said both the girls and boys teams had balance this year across all events for the first time in a while. He pointed out how the boys 4x100 team of Zedekiah Davis, Chayse Kidd, Miles Cook, Connor Maloney took first but yet there were no Skyline boys 100 finalists. The Grizzlies also took third in the 4x200 and got points from throwers Joel Cortez and Parker Reynolds, jumpers Zion Johnson, distance runner Dallin Hart and hurdler Davis.
"Losing these seniors is going to be real tough to replace for us," Meyer said. "They’ve taken the younger kids under their wing. They’ve owned that role for three years, putting in the effort and getting everybody on board."
Meyer said Skyline's girls are where the boys were a couple years ago--youth laden and balanced in multiple events. One of the biggest unknowns entering state, however, was how to fill vacancies in relays since Hannah Fish broke her foot after the 100 at districts. Meyer said May 19 was the first full night's rest he'd had in two weeks due to choosing events for districts then finalizing new girls relay lineups by May 13. He commended freshmen Mattie Olson and Tailer Thomas, senior Brea Danklefsen, sophomore Sariah Harrison and junior Jenaya Vander Stoep for rising to the challenge for the new relay lineups. All four relays medaled, and Olson and Harrison also medaled in individual events as did fellow relay runners Breanne Herrmann and Macy Olson.
"I feel so bad for (Hannah) because the same thing happened to her last year," Meyer said. "She had a stress fracture and tried to run her 100 prelim and couldn't do it. We had to put Macy Olson in the medley relay. On Monday when we finalized things, the kids were all on board."
A member of three of Skyline's four girls relays at state, including anchoring Skyline to the sprint medley win on Friday for Skyline's first girls relay state win since 2002, senior Herrmann said she trusted the decisions of Skyline's coaches.
"Honestly, I wasn't too worried because our coaches do a really good job of preparing us for the unexpected," Herrmann said Monday by phone. "We practice handoffs with other people."
Meyer said girls relays were an emphasis this year due to points not being guaranteed in individual finals. Herrmann dropped the 400, one of her best events, for districts to add a third relay.
"At first, I was like, 'No way. I love the 400,'" Herrmann said. "Overall, it made more sense, so I had to be a little selfless there. It would give me more rest for the (300 hurdles). It was worth it."
Herrmann said while it is difficult to leave an uplifting program, she is confident that the Grizzlies have a promising future ahead.
"I’m excited to watch what they can do," Herrmann said.