Isaac Lavala: An athlete’s journey

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Courtesy photo Isaac Lavala clears 15 feet, 2 inches, breaking the State 3A record, one inch better than the current standing record.

Isaac Lavala loves the game of football. He has been playing tackle football since the sixth grade and it has always been his favorite sport. When he is not getting the ball thrown or handed to him to gain yardage, he is on the defensive side of the ball. Lavala usually plays every game on both offense and defense and plays for the entire game — if possible.

For those of us who are die-hard fans, we have had to endure a few seasons of ups and downs, especially in the area of coaching. In 2015 the coaching staff gained solid footing and then there was a shortage of players. Needless to say (but I will) the games we have endured against much bigger teams from both Idaho, Washington and Oregon were tough on our boys. Lavala, however, tried to make the best of this and worked as hard as possible to do his best on the field.

One of the things he decided to do was to join the Track & Field team. His goal was to do sprint training so that he could get quicker for football. Yes, everything revolved around football. So he joined the track team and started working toward getting faster and having even more endurance. A few weeks into practice, then Head Coach George Hays, asked Lavala if he had ever considered pole vaulting. Lavala told Mr. Hays that he was not interested and then gave him his reasons for even joining track — again, football.

Mr. Hays was persistent, however, and continued to badger — pun intended — Lavala to try the pole vault. He continued to refuse until one day Mr. Hays didn’t ask. Instead, Mr. Hays brought Lavala over to the pole vault pit and put a pole in his hand. The time for asking was obviously over and now here he was, doing something he had no intention of doing.

By the end of that first practice (or maybe one more), Lavala was told by Mr. Hays that he was signed up to pole vault in the upcoming Bonners Ferry Invite. He jumped over his first bar at this meet, clearing 8 feet, 6 inches. As the season progressed, Lavala continued to pole vault and got a season record of 12 feet. He went to State but did not do well.

In his second season of Track & Field Lavala didn’t have to be persuaded to pole vault. He now loved the sport almost as much as his beloved football. The 2016 season would see a 40-year-old record fall to the wayside. What George Hays saw clearly in Lavala would now play out in the breaking of the record he, himself, set back in 1976. The old Bonners Ferry High School pole vault record was 13’ 6”, set by George Hays. Isaac jumped in front of the home crowd and cleared 13’ 7” and thrilled everyone in attendance — including Mr. Hays who was at the track meet helping to run various events.

Isaac would go on to break the District record at Timberlake three weeks later by jumping 14’ 6”. This would also raise the record for BFHS to 14’ 6”. Heading to State we were greeted by harsh weather on the field at Middleton HS. The temperature was hovering around 37 degrees Fahrenheit with blowing rain. Lavala didn’t live up to his potential at this meet and would come away with 5th place. He was disappointed in this outcome but not defeated and he would enter into a regimen of off-season training to keep up his skills.

Fast-forward to 2017 and we see Lavala concentrating solely on the pole vault after gaining offensive MVP for football. Some athletes do multiple events and that is fine, in most cases. However, for Lavala, his goal is to break the State of Idaho 3A record this season and has desired to train only with the pole vault. His dad, Robert, took both him and another pole vaulter, Nikolas Bertling, to a pole vault camp in Seattle where they could get honed up for the upcoming season.

The first meet of the 2017 season Lavala came out and jumped 14’ 3”, winning the first meet at Timberlake. From there, the coaching staff decided that it would be best for him to seek competition outside the district so pressure could be added. To set the stage for this you need to understand that every track meet Lavala attended last year went like this. Everyone jumped and finished at around 12’. Lavala would jump once, win, and then go for records. This year that would be different. Pasco, one of the largest one-day track meets in the country, would feature 20 pole vaulters jumping at the 14-foot level. Out of the 40-plus jumpers at Pasco, Lavala took 8th place with 14 feet. The winning jump that day would be 15 feet.

Two more big meets in Washington would yield a 4th and then a 3rd place finish and then it came to the Meet of Champions, May 4, in Post Falls. The best of the best in District 1 (1A through 5A schools) would gather to see who would be crowned Champion of Champions. Corbin Maltba, from Priest River, gave Lavala good competition jumping up to 14’ but then failed on 14’ 6”. Lavala cleared 14’ 6” on his first try and then went on the break the State 3A record with a jump of 15’ 2”, one inch better than the current standing record. The catch with this record is Lavala will have to replicate the jump at the State competition May 19, for it to be permanent.

With football in his not-so-distant past, Lavala hopes to set a new record at State.

Lavala’s attitude toward practice and going out and doing his best can be summed up with a quote from Vince Lombardi. “The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will.”

— Submitted by Robert Lavala, Isaac’s father

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