BY MICHAEL HAMMOND | Yankton Press & Dakotan
Dec. 24, 2016 | Male Athlete of the Year
Going into his senior track season at Parker High School, Zack Anderson had two goals in mind: One, to clear 7-foot in the high jump, and two, to break the state record of 7-2.
Before his senior year, Anderson’s personal best was a jump of 6-7, but following his final basketball season he felt confident in his leaping abilities to accomplish the goals.
“I could tell it was starting after basketball,” Anderson said. “I looked back at the film and saw over 30 dunks and was happy with where I was.”
The first step came at the Dan Lennon meet in Vermillion, his first meet of the year. Anderson took home the win with a meet-record jump of 6-10.75. He then took his first attempts at clearing 7-0 and missed, but felt good afterword.
As the season went along, Anderson was sitting between 6-8 and 6-10, but then the day came where he would clear 7-0 at the Just Games Meet in Garretson.
“I felt super good and flew over 6-10 on my first attempt with ease,” Anderson said. “I missed my first two attempts at 7-0 and got nervous, but I cleared it on my final try.”
Anderson became the sixth South Dakota high school boys’ athlete to ever clear 7-0 and was the first to do it in 24 years. For that accomplishment, and his eventual exploits at the state track meet, Anderson has been named the Press & Dakotan’s 2016 Prep Male Athlete of the Year.
“Being part of that elite group makes me think about what I did accomplish,” said Anderson, who is now at the University of South Dakota. “I get goals in my head and think about them so hard they happen.
“Seven-foot was one of the ones I was going to make happen.”
Following his 7-0 clearance, Anderson moved the bar to 7-3 in an attempt to break the state record, but missed on all three attempts.
Coming from a small school in Class B, Anderson had to stay on track and work hard earn a spot in this elite group. He is thankful for all the people who helped him along the way.
“A lot of athletes are super good, but don’t put forward the effort and are half as good as they would be,” Anderson said. “I never excelled at football or basketball, but that made me better at track.”
With a seven-foot jump in hand, the season moved steadily along and came to a conclusion at the state meet in Sioux Falls.
On a rainy day at Howard Wood Field, Anderson earned the Boys’ Class B Outstanding Field Athlete with wins in the high jump at 6-9, long jump with a personal record 22-4.25 mark, and the triple jump at 44-11. He helped Parker finish sixth in the Class B team standings.
Anderson moved up to 6-11 and missed all his attempts after becoming the state champ and his high school career was over, as well as his shot at setting a new state record.
“I could have gone higher if there was more competition,” Anderson said. “After you know you’re the champion there’s nothing more to do.
“I didn’t know how I felt at that time. All of my seven-foot jumps were going through my head and trying to get the record. It stinks not to get that record.”
Although he didn’t break the state’s high jump record, Anderson’s jumping abilities landed him a spot on the South Dakota track and field team. He was recruited by the Coyotes’ Director of Track and Field (and head women’s coach), Lucky Huber.
“Lucky talked about building me up to be the jumper that I want to be,” Anderson said. “I want to be a consistent 7-0 and above jumper so I can go to meets and be confident instead of in high school where I would just hope to get certain highs.
“He has built that for me already in the last four months.”
After one semester in Vermillion, Anderson has achieved a 4.0 GPA academically and been competing with another seven-foot jumper in two-time Summit League indoor champion Tyler Frank.
“Tyler is a senior now and I am glad he is still here to show me the ropes,” Anderson said. “He is a goofy guy from South Dakota, which is what I am, so we push each other and battle.”
In the Coyotes’ first meet, an intersquad on Dec. 5, Frank beat out Anderson in the high jump with a 6-10 mark to Anderson’s 6-8. Anderson won the triple jump at the meet with a jump of 40-4.25.
Anderson has been clearing 6-8 with ease in practice and hopes to improve his personal record by five inches, which has been consistent with past Coyote jumpers.
“If I stick to the same process for four years I could get my PR up to 7-5,” Anderson said. “I feel confident in that if I wake up every morning and find out what I have to do and go do it instead of pushing it off and not getting better.”
If Anderson keeps to the process and improves his leaping abilities he could find himself in contention for the 2020 Olympics.
“I am hoping to be a legit Olympic contender,” Anderson said. “If you are in track collegiately, that is why you are there.
“A couple coaches at USD have been there. Winning individually and as a team at USD would be great, but I would love-love-love to make the Olympics in 2020.”
While he is hard at work, Anderson doesn’t think about it too much. One thing for sure is that he will be exciting to watch in his four years at South Dakota