Alex Anderson was standing on the award podium with a first-place medal around his neck after winning the Big Sky Conference title in the men’s triple jump when he called for his girlfriend to come over from the crowd.
Anderson had just posted a Southern Utah University-record 15.26 meters (50-00.75 feet) in the men’s triple jump on Saturday, defeating the rest of the Big Sky competition by 0.62 of a meter. However, what he was planning to do next was a lot more memorable than his medal-winning performance.
Anderson’s girlfriend, fellow SUU track athlete Jennika Wright, emerged from the crowd.
"I remember standing on the podium and obviously I knew exactly where she was standing,” Anderson said. “So, I kind of pointed and waved my hand her direction and said if she could come down here. She kind of covered her face. You could just tell that she was really surprised and excited. The initial reaction was the hand over the mouth — kind of ‘like oh my gosh.’ ”
After a brief stumble on the track, she met Anderson at the podium. Anderson then dropped to one knee and asked the big question.
"She tripped and fell, which made it complete,” Anderson joked. “After that, I said don't worry everybody, she's kind of nervous. The crowd laughed, so whatever. I got down on one knee. I said, 'Jennika Ann Wright, there's no one else I see myself with. You love me and I love you forever. I just have one question,' and that's when I got down on one knee and said, 'Will you marry me?’ ”
Wright said yes and the crowd roared as the two kissed at the podium.
The story of the two dates back two years ago, when Wright and Anderson met on the track team. Wright had transferred from Idaho State and the couple started dating shortly after that.
Anderson spent weeks planning on the perfect time to propose. After imagining he would ask the question in a more intimate setting, everything just seemed to click together at the meet.
"I had been planning on how to do it for a while, but nothing really came to mind,” Anderson said. “Honestly, it all came together the day before. I was talking to a couple of my coaches, and we decided that would be awesome. So literally, it was on the spot."
The proposal caught Wright off-guard.
"First when he was up there, I was like, 'What the heck is he doing?' and then when he said, 'Jennika come up here,' I was shaking so bad. I obviously couldn't even walk," she said. "I knew he likes surprising me. For any type of holiday, he'll surprise me. I didn't figure this, no, but I figured it would be something pretty cool."
It came at a perfect time for the thrower, too, who didn’t put up the performance at the conference meet that she would’ve liked.
She finished 15th in the shot put final and 16th in the discus throw.
“I was super surprised because my event, my throw shot put went completely horrible,” Wright said. “I was about to cry when I competed. I was mad, and then that [the proposal] happened and I didn't care about my performance anymore."
Luckily for the couple, their coaches filmed the moment so they could remember the moment forever. Even the Big Sky Conference posted a photo of the happy moment to Instagram.
"They all enjoyed it, but I think it was more of a one-time thing,” said Anderson, who believes he didn’t start a trend of SUU athletes proposing at meets. “Once something has been done, I don't think people will want to follow that exact path."
Anderson added the couple plans on getting married in the St. George Temple in August.
Overall, the two have one great proposal story to tell for years to come.
"It was one of the best! It was pretty awesome. I’m pretty lucky,” Wright said. “It was awesome to get to share it with my teammates and that big old crowd. It was perfect."
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company