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 spread across five different events, including state championships in the pole vault and 110-meter hurdles this season. He set the 4A classification record at state with a mark of 15 feet, six inches while his 110 hurdle time of 14.48 seconds was the fifth-fastest time 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 wished 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 decrease 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, that wasn’t the case with track. Helms was already a part of Team Idaho, competed in numerous U.S. 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 competing at a single high school meet. Only six pole vaulters in Idaho jumped 15 feet last season.
Helms’ development included working with the likes of former Olympic gold medalists Stacy Dragila and Jenn Suhr.
Dragila was the inaugural champion in the women’s pole vault at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia. Suhr won gold 12 years later in London. 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.”
Helms held his own in the 110 hurdles too. His lone loss over the last two years prior to this season came at the USATF Hershey National Junior Olympic Championships in North Carolina on July 29, 2018. He still finished 16th in the country.
His high school debut on March 15 at Columbia High saw him win the 110 hurdles in 14.82 seconds. That time would have won him a state title in every classification last season except for 5A. But it still would have earned him a fourth-place finish there.
Although Helms had a great debut in the 110 hurdles, pole vault was a different story. He only cleared 12-6 for second place in the same opening meet of the season at Columbia.
Helms was then just slightly better at the Patriot Invitational at Centennial High a month later. He vaulted 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 don’t know why other than I was still trying to get back to my full run. I was just frustrated.”
However, the 15-year-old didn’t lose again, which included the 4A State Track and Field Championships at Eagle High. But it wasn’t easy.
Helms was originally scheduled to compete at 11 a.m. on May 18. But all pole vaulting competitions had to be held that Saturday with rain postponing field events. So the 4A boys didn’t start until 5 p.m. with nearly every other event wrapped up.
Helms was just about to run in the 300 hurdle final after taking the 110 hurdle crown when he looked over and saw his fellow pole vaulters warming up. He took third in the 300 hurdles with a personal record time of 39.44 seconds before racing over to the pits.
He 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 also still had enough 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 raised to 15-6. Denney failed on all three of his opportunities and Helms was down to his final attempt.
And if Helms didn’t clear it, Denney would win the championship because of fewer misses.
Helms raised his hands above his head and prompted the crowd to start clapping. He 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 on the mat below. He popped back up and into the arms of Kimball, who finished seventh, to celebrate a state championship by breaking an 18-year-old 4A classification record. The previous record was held by Skyview’s Robbie Haynie, who set it in 2001.
“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 it 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 felt really good.”
But 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.”