PROVO It's difficult enough trying to throw your body over a 5-foot bar, but just try doing it when you're carrying 100 years of tradition on your back.
All week long, Taylor Proctor, a senior high jumper at Granite High School, had cleared 5-foot-4 in practice. Now she couldn't clear 5 feet.
"I know I can do it," she said. "I don't know what's wrong."
Then again, maybe she did. Thousands of athletes have come through Granite High School in the last century; Proctor was the last one, and no one let her forget it. Faced with shrinking enrollment, Granite School District ended sports at Granite High, effective at the end of the school year or, actually, Proctor's last jump. She marked the end of an era.
She stared at the bar, tugged at her pony tail, touched the ground three times in her pre-jump ritual and made her third and final attempt, knocking off the bar with her lower back. With that jump, Granite was outta here.
From future Detroit Lion Frank Christensen to future BYU All-American Eldon Fortie to Super Bowl-bound Golden Richards to future BYU coach Lance Reynolds to eventual Denver Bronco running back Rick Parros, it all fell to Granite's homecoming queen to close the door on Granite's storied sports run.
If she didn't know about all the history and she didn't she did after TV stations and newspapers got wind of it and began to call on her in the days leading up to the state meet. By the middle of last week she says, "I felt sick to my stomach every time I jumped."
The decision to end sports at Granite was probably a merciful act. The Farmers had become the doormat of prep sports, an automatic win for opponents and every team's favorite homecoming date. It wasn't always that way. The Farmers won 16 state championships, but none in the past 34 years. Their enrollment once included all the kids in the southern half of the valley, which made them formidable. Then new high schools began to pop up south of Granite as the population grew and enrollment and athletic performance declined.
All of Granite's teams languished, but none more than the football team, which requires the most athletes. In the 1960s, a young coach took over the football program and for the next eight years failed to produce a single winning season. His name was LaVell Edwards.
In recent years, there were seasons when Granite had only 18 kids on the roster and some days fewer than 11 players showed up for practice.
According to coach Bryan Good, the Farmers' problems with declining enrollment were compounded by the sorts of problems that beset inner-city schools. Part of his job was spent just trying to keep kids eligible and out of trouble.
The Farmers won two games since 1999, one against a first-year 1A team from Layton Christian, which ended a 38-game losing streak, and another against a small school from West Wendover.
"Last season we scored in every game and scored more points than the last six years combined," he says. At Granite, they measure success in different ways. "You have to," says Good.
After the Farmers' softball, soccer and baseball teams ended their seasons well short of winning championships, Proctor, the school's only state qualifier in track for three straight years, became the last Granite athlete in a century of sports.
"She represents everything that is good about Granite," said Rocky Proctor, the girl's father and part-time coach.
Proctor was captain of the volleyball, basketball and track teams, as well as a Sterling Scholar, homecoming queen, a 3.9 honors student, a member of the orchestra, prom queen and a former 3A state high jump champion (2004).
"She feels the weight of the world on her," Good said last week after spending an afternoon working with her high jump technique.
So did her father, who confessed, "I woke up last night just sick to my stomach. I thought I was going to throw up. I was worrying about everything what if we get stuck in traffic and don't get there in time?" Granite head coach Curtis Jones had similar feelings but he kept them to himself "because I didn't want to put any more pressure on her."
Proctor made first-attempt clearances at 4-6, 4-8 and 4-10, but she struck out at 5 feet. She was hoping for a better ending, but there was at least one bright spot in the outcome.
"Now I can go back to doing homework," she said.Doug Robinson is a Deseret Morning News columnist and also a high school track and football coach.
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