The scene is touching and genuine yet seems out of place: A standout high school athlete, fresh off a hard-fought victory on the wrestling mat, walks out of the gym holding an infant car seat, side-by-side with a young woman holding a baby girl. The story of Gilbert Williams Field senior Heath Boers is both a cautionary tale and a valuable lesson on responsibility.
The scene is touching and genuine yet seems out of place:
A standout high school athlete, fresh off a hard-fought victory on the wrestling mat, walks out of the gym holding an infant car seat, side-by-side with a young woman holding a baby girl.
The story of Gilbert Williams Field senior Heath Boers is both a cautionary tale and a valuable lesson on responsibility.
The young man holding the car carrier is Boers, one of the best 160-pound wrestlers in Arizona, undefeated (19-0) and coming off a junior season in which he won 45 matches and placed second in 4A-II.
The young woman is Kathleen Holt Boers, his 18-year-old wife, and she’s holding Rain, their 5-month-old daughter.
“I would not advise this to anyone,” Kathleen said, her tone turning serious. “Girls come up to me (with Rain) all the time and say, ‘Ooooh, I want one.’ That’s just selfish. They don’t know how hard it is.”
Heath and Kathleen were juniors at Williams Field when they added to the growing number of teenage pregnancies in Arizona, which ranks fifth in the nation with 62 births per 1,000 teenage girls, according to 2006 figures from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Abortion was not an option due to their religious beliefs — both are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
“It was hard,” Kathleen said of breaking the news to their families. “I felt bad because I was the good one in the family. We were more worried about their reaction. Our parents weren’t as upset as we feared they would be.”
“She made me be there when she told her dad,” said Heath with a sheepish smile, one of the few hints that he’s still just an 18-year-old.
This is where the Boers’ story diverges from most stories of teenagers having babies. Instead of letting Kathleen and her family take full-time responsibility of the baby, which typically happens to young mothers and their families, the two high school juniors decided they were going to do it together, for better or worse.
“It was a mutual decision,” Heath said of getting married. “It was the right thing to do.”
“We agreed with letting them get married as long as they both promised that they would go to college,” said Dana Boers, Heath’s mother.
All of this was happening late in Heath’s junior season, yet he was able to stay focused enough on wrestling to finish second at the 4A-II state tournament.
“The baby wasn’t here yet, but it drove me to do better because now I have two people watching me instead of one,” Heath said.
The couple got married in a small ceremony on March 13. They live with Kathleen’s family in Gilbert because it is closer to Williams Field but make several visits to Heath’s parents’ home in San Tan Valley.
“The only way we could have survived is because of both families supporting us,” said Heath, who plans to start working after the wrestling season is over so he and his young family can get a place of their own.
And since having Rain, Boers has not lost a match and has his sights set on winning a state championship and perhaps earning a college scholarship.
“It motivates me because the better I do, the more it could help for the future,” Heath said.
Williams Field coach Jason Ford, in his first year with the Blackhawks, wasn’t quite sure what to make of the Boers’ situation when he first took over the program. But in the months he’s worked with Heath, Ford has never been disappointed.
“You would think that a kid who got his girlfriend pregnant, maybe he’s the most irresponsible kid on the team,” Ford said. “That’s quite the opposite. He’s been the most responsible, kind, respectful kid I’ve worked with.
“He’s the kind of kid who just mans up. And as a couple, they took ownership of their decision and they just want to make it work.”