BY JACKSON WAGNER
Enter the hallways of the Memorial Gymnasium in Anaconda and you are instantly submerged into a history lesson. The hallway inside the front doors is home to all of Anaconda’s achievements in sport, with trophies over a century old peering at you from behind glass.
Make a right turn, and you start to see pictures of Anaconda’s best. The individuals lucky enough to have earned their place in history as State Champions get their own case. If you look hard enough, something becomes immediately clear: the Estes family stands above all in Anaconda.
First you notice Ron Estes’ photo. He looks different than the bearded, grizzled man who has walked the sidelines as Anaconda’s freshman boys basketball coach for the past years. His son, Michael Estes, is also in the trophy case with Ron. Michael, with his father and Joe Mehrens coaching him, won his state championship as a javelin thrower while also setting a school record.
“Michael always gives me crap because I used to hold the school record in the javelin, and then it was beat, so he always says he had to come and get the record back for our name,” Ron said. “But I always told him it was because he had a better coach,” he added with a laugh.
Then, you may be able to identify Rochi Estes, a member of the 4×100 meter state championship winning team. Rochi, with his signature messy blonde hair, was a legend on the court at AHS, but is enshrined for his speed.
Ron’s eldest son, Brad, may not have attended Anaconda High, but he excelled in football in Phillipsburg, a school where Ron still serves as counselor, before the Estes’ moved to Anaconda.
Ron is happy with all of his children’s success both while competing in athletics and in life. The pictures in the trophy case are just a special reminder.
“I’m proud as heck of all of them,” Ron said. “It is really neat to see all of the pictures up in the trophy case.”
You take it all in, admiring what this small family from Sunnyside Road has accomplished, before turning around and noticing a shrine dedicated to the late Wayne Estes. It takes up an entire trophy case on its own, serving as a memorial for the greatest athlete to ever walk the halls of Anaconda high.
A number of the males in this family have all reached the pinnacle of high school athletics, but the Estes greatness transcends gender. Malia, the only daughter of Ron, is the newest addition to the trophy case. She earned her place in history as a javelin thrower like her brother before her.
In Anaconda, the Estes’ are like royalty, and Mia is the queen.
Her path to greatness began at an early age. She had an arm of gold, and it seemed apparent when she entered high school that she would continue her track career at the next level. As a freshman, she broke the school record and finished fifth at the state tournament.
“It felt great to think that, I’ve trained hard and I’m the best person to come out of Anaconda at this moment, so it felt pretty cool to be on top for once,” Estes said of breaking the school record.
She improved on that her sophomore season, finishing third with a throw of 124-11. The two girls who finished ahead of her were both seniors, and 2012 appeared to be Estes’ year. But a disappointing showing at the state meet took her off the podium and into sixth position. It appeared that the pressure of being an Estes may have been taking its toll on Mia.
“There is a lot of pressure having my family being so talented,” Estes said. “I always wanted to be just like them, so I was afraid to let them down. Later, I found out that they wouldn’t have cared anyway they just wanted me to do my best. I was relieved when I won, but I knew I’d always have their support
The pressure was mounting, and Estes had just one final chance to win a state championship when she traveled to the final meet of her high school career. The meet was held in Laurel, the site of her fifth place finish as a freshman. Estes would not be held back again. Her qualifying throw of 146-03, followed by a toss of 137-3 put her at the top of her game.
“I was really excited to win state, but my big goal was to beat the state record because I had thrown it multiple times, but you have to actually throw it at state for it to count,” Estes said. “I was actually disappointed because I didn’t get the record when I had been throwing it all year.”
While Mia may have been disappointed for not throwing the state record, her father knows just how important winning that state championship was to her.
“Malia’s last year, as great of a year as she had, she wouldn’t have been satisfied if she hadn’t have won that state championship,” Ron said. “That meet probably bothered me more than anything because I wanted it so bad for her. It was the one that meant everything to her. It’s just a really neat thing.”
Mia had finally won her state championship and joined the hallway of the Snake Pit with her brothers. There is one person that Ron gives special credit to when it comes to his kids’ success as javelin throwers.
“I’ve always spent time with my kids doing stuff like that from an early age, but coach Mehrens was really good with them,” Ron said. “I have to give him a lot of credit, because he stuck with them and was willing to work with them at any time, meet them at the stadium after hours and everything. I have to give him a lot of credit for their success.”
Mia is writing her own story, but she knows and respects the greatness of her family. She had offers to go to a number of different schools to throw javelin, but she ultimately decided to continue her career at the same place that her uncle Wayne’s was tragically brought to an end.
If there a single town or city in the United States where the name Estes means as much as in Anaconda, it would be Logan, Utah. If you were to travel back in time 50 years, you would see perhaps the greatest Aggie to ever live gracing the court. Wayne Estes, the same man who lives on in Anaconda lore, is third in school history with 2,001 points and fourth in rebounding with 893.
In his final game with the Aggies, he score 48 points to push his career total over the 2,000 point mark. Later that night, he was killed as he attempted to help at the scene of a car accident, electrocuted by a fallen power line.
It means the world to Ron that his daughter is attending the same school as his brother, but he didn’t push her towards the decision.
“To be truthful, it wouldn’t matter to me where she went to school,” Ron said. “It wasn’t a must that she went to Utah State, I just wanted her to be successful and be happy with where she was going. It was a tough decision because she had some really good offers besides that.”
The Estes name lived on in Logan for all these years as one of the best athletes, and best person, that the university had been privileged to know. In 2013, the university made sure that his name would live on forever, crafting the Wayne Estes Center.
“This $9.7 million, 32,000 square-foot basketball practice facility and volleyball competition venue contains two regulation-size basketball courts and a regulation-size volleyball competition court with chair back seating for 1,400 fans, along with a training room and in-season strength and conditioning area,” reads the official description on utahstateaggies.com. It is a memorial to the school’s greatest hero.
The Estes family traveled down for the opening ceremonies, where they learned just how well respected Wayne was, and still is, in the city of Logan.
“I’ve told Malia and all of my kids about Wayne and they’ve seen pictures and articles, but when we went down to the opening ceremony of the Activities Center, Malia was just in awe,” Ron said. “All of his ex-teammates got up to talk about him, coaches and even just people that knew him. It was a neat experience for her to be down there at that time to take it all in.”
All of the fame and publicity because of a last name can be intimidating for a freshman athlete who is still a teenager. The difference between Anaconda and Logan was clear to Mia.
“It’s intimidating because you go from here, where our generation has kind of forgotten (about Wayne Estes) because it’s been fifty years,” Estes said. “You go to Logan, where it is kind of a retired town, and everyone remembers. Everybody knows that name, so everybody expects me to be not just a great athlete, but a good person. The pressure is really on, but at the same time its great because I’m making my own name. I get to be like my uncle, but I’m good enough to be here.”
The center was constructed in 2013 which, coincidentally, was Mia Estes’ first year on campus in Logan. She had a terrific freshman season, placing in the top-10 in six events. She won the Mark Faldmo meet with a throw of 41.00m (134-06 feet) and finished second at the Weber State Invite with her best throw of the year, 45.94m (150-09 ft.). Estes excelled, but the gap between high school and college track was glaring.
“You go from high school where you are a big fish in a little pond, to college where you are a tiny fish in a great big ocean,” Estes said. “You stand out in high school, then you come to college and you’re just like everybody else. Everyone is as good as you if not better, so you really have to be on top of your game to compete.”
She qualified for the NCAA Championship First Round in Fayetteville, Arkansas her freshman year. She finished 36th at the national competition with a throw of 42.81m (140-05).
“It was a great experience (going to the NCAAs). It was intimidating, because those meets are the best people. You have to show up and you have to throw your best, because everybody is there to get the job done. Nobody is screwing around, nobody is just trying the javelin out. They all know what they’re doing and they are there to win, so you have to be all business.”
She attempted to build off the solid showing her freshman year and avoid any sort of a sophomore slump. She wasn’t able to top her career-best throw, but she improved upon her consistency and finished first in four different meets, with a second place finish thrown in as well.
Once again, she qualified for the NCAA Championship First Round. This time, the meet was held in Austin, Texas. Estes improved upon her throw from freshman year, measuring in at 42.88m (140-08), but fell back a couple spots in the leaderboard at 38th.
Now, she sits at the halfway point of her career as she prepares to travel back down the long highway to Logan to begin the academic year. She has already accrued a number of awards in college to add to her decorated trophy case: five meet victories, Mountain West Scholar Athlete, Academic All-Mountain West and two Academic All-American selections.
And the queen of Anaconda’s most regal family has her sights set on more.
“I want to actually be an All-American javelin thrower,” Estes said. “I want to be top eight. I want to win it for sure, but my next goal is to make top eight and become an All-American.”
She wants to be an All-American and that goal may not be that far out of reach. Ron, who still helps coach her and practices with her over the summer, has witnessed breathtaking throws when the two of them are alone together.
“She’s capable of throwing even better,” Ron said. “I’ve seen her throw over 160 myself, so she’s capable of big throws. She has just a little bit in her exchange, she’s picking her back foot up too early, and if we can ever get that fixed she’s going to have some big throws.”