BILLINGS — The COVID-19 pandemic couldn’t have come at a worse time for Emma Zimmerman.
“I was devastated. I had big expectations for last year, big goals," Zimmerman said.
But if there’s anybody who can persevere through a setback, it’s her. This was Zimmerman at the State AA track meet her sophomore year in 2019:
— Rob Zimmerman (@RobZ_soccerfan) May 24, 2019
“My first attempt at 10 feet, my pole snapped," Zimmerman recalled, "and so instantly, I was just like, ‘Did that count as an attempt?’”
“No. 1, hopefully she’s OK," West head coach Rob Stanton recalled thinking that day. "And as a head coach, another thought I had was she just broke a pole -- it’s going to cost $600, so I was a little concerned about that too.”
After realizing she was OK, everyone’s focus immediately turned to what's next. Luckily for Zimmerman, in Montana, help is never far away.
“We’re scrambling to find a pole," Zimmerman said, "and I borrow one from Glasgow, which is crazy because that’s where my grandpa was a coach at.”
Zimmerman’s grandfather was the entire reason she decided to try pole vaulting, so of course the school he coached the sport at happened to have the exact length pole she just broke.
"I didn’t have a lot of time because it was all super rushed and frantic," she said, "and I started up again at the next attempt and made it on my first attempt, and I went on to place (at state)."
“How she landed on top of her head and flipped in a bad spot, she’s a special kid," Stanton added.
After clearing 10 feet, 9 inches as a sophomore and 11-08 at an indoor meet this winter, the Billings West High senior now has her sights set as high as she can.
“The first goal: definitely try to go after that school record, and that’s 12-06," Zimmerman said.
“I think she has an opportunity to do that, and she has the mindset to do that," Stanton said. "She’s a hard worker. She puts the time in and she gets faster.”
If the last two years haven't stopped her, what will?
West opened its season on April 1 in a dual meet at Billings Skyview. Zimmerman cleared 11-0 to win the pole vault.