Landon Helms is pretty handy with a microphone.
The Emmett High track and field star proved that during a recent school talent show. But he knows how to handle a pole as well.
The freshman recorded 19 wins with eight of those coming in the pole vault, including in the state championship where he set a 4A classification record at 15 feet, six inches. The mark was the best in Idaho by five inches. He also added a title in the 110-meter hurdles with a personal record time of 14.66 seconds, the fifth fastest in the state this year.
For these accolades, Helms is the 2018-19 Idaho Press’ Sports Stars Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year.
“I sort of got past the point where I wish I could be better than him because very few are,” Emmett senior pole vaulter and brother Kimball Helms said. “He is a freak of nature. He’s naturally an athletic person and it helps that he works on it all year round. He’s really determined to get that next height or to increase his time by just that .01 second. He’s just driven to be the very best and isn’t going to stop until he is.”
While few knew of Landon Helms’ voice coming into this season, the same couldn’t be said when it came to the track. Helms was already a part of Team Idaho, competed in numerous US Track and Field National Junior Olympic Championships and placed fifth in the pole vault in the emerging elite division at the New Balance Nationals Indoor championships on March 5 in New York.
He had already cleared 15 feet before even stepping foot on a high school campus. Only six pole vaulters in Idaho cleared 15 feet last season.
It helped having a who’s who of coaches to work with. Helms’ development included working with the likes of former Olympic gold medalists Stacy Dragila and Jenn Suhr.
Dragila was the inaugural Olympic champion in the women’s pole vault during the 2000 games in Sydney, Australia. Suhr won gold in the London 2012 Summer Olympics. She also owns the world indoor record at 16-6 and the American outdoor record of 16-2.
“A lot of kids that are in my gym are shocked by his body. Coming in even last year as an eighth grader they were like ,’Wow this kid’s an eighth grader?,’” Dragila said. “He has great turnover speed and runs really well for such a young athlete. And to have all those skill sets at such a young age, has set him up for really great success.”
But he held his own in the hurdles too. His lone loss during the last two years in the 110 hurdles came at the USATF Hershey National Junior Olympic Championships in North Carolina on July 29, 2018. He still finished 16th in the country.
Helms posted a winning time of 14.82 seconds in his high school debut in a tre-meet at Columbia on March 15. That time would have won him a state title at every classification last season except in 5A. It still would have earned him a fourth-place finish.
Although Helms lived up to the hype in the 110 hurdles, that wasn’t exactly the case with his bread and butter event. He only vaulted 12-6 and finished in the same opening meet of the season at Columbia.
Helms was then only slightly better about a month later at the Patriot Invitational at Centennial on April 12. He cleared 13 feet, but finished a full foot behind the winner in third place.
“Switching from indoor to outdoor really messed with my head,” Helms said. “I was still trying to get back to my full run I was just frustrated.
“A lot of it had to with, we had just gotten our 15-6 poles and I couldn’t get on them in practice. I could only get on them in competition. I needed the practice on the actual poles that I was going to be jumping on.”
However, the 15-year-old adjusted quickly. He didn’t lose again, which included at the 4A State Track and Field Championships at Eagle High. But it wasn’t easy.
The 4A boys were originally scheduled to go at 11 a.m. Saturday May 18. But rain pushed all pole vaulting to Saturday. So the 4A boys didn’t start until around 5 p.m. when all the other events were nearly complete.
After taking the 110 hurdle crown, Helms was just about to run in the 300 hurdle final when the pit is open announcement was made. He took third with a personal record time of 39.44 seconds before racing over to the pits.
Helms was only able to rest for 10 minutes.
“When I first got there I just laid on the ground and just tried to catch my breath,” Helms said. “I was worried going into warm ups because I was so tired. I didn’t know if I was going to have anything left. Surprisingly, I didn’t pass out.”
He still had enough left in the thank for another state title.
It came down to him and Hillcrest’s Brayden Denney. When both he and Denney cleared 15 feet, the bar was moved up to 15-6. Denney failed on all three of his opportunities and Helms was down to his last attempt.
And if Helms didn’t clear, Denney would win the championship due to fewer misses.
He raised his hands above his head and prompted the crowd to start clapping.
Let out a shout.
Flipped his pole up.
Sprinted down the runway before placing his pole down and lifting off.
Helms never so much as grazed the bar. It stayed perfectly still while he landed softly to the mat below. He popped back up and jumped into the arms of Kimball, who finished 7th, to celebrate a new 4A classification record, and a state championship.
“It’s kind of a blur,” Landon Helms said. “The next thing I remember is looking at my dad as I’m falling.
“I don’t want to put into terms where it’s over the top because I know there are going to be experiences where it’s going to be better than that, but I don’t want to put it into terms that sets it too low either. So I’ll just say it was really good.”
But the question remains what is Helms better at? Singing or pole vaulting?
Well he didn’t win that talent show.
“I’d rather have him stick with pole vaulting,” Emmett pole vaulting coach Jeff Brothers said while laughing. “Flying for him is better than singing.”