It wasn’t exactly love at first sight.
When Shelley, Idaho, native Kira Marlow chose Northwest College to continue her basketball career last year, the last thing she expected was to meet the love of her life, at least right away. The three-sport athlete had bigger fish to fry as she transitioned from high school to the collegiate game, and didn’t need any distractions.
But sometimes life (and love) sneaks up on you when you least expect it. As Marlow began making friends with her teammates and expanding her social circle, she found herself hanging out quite a bit with the sophomores on both basketball teams. One of those sophomores was Skyler Zabriskie, an unheralded walk-on to the Trappers’ Region IX championship team two seasons earlier. Coming to NWC with very little organized ball experience, Zabriskie worked his way into a starter by the 2016-17 season through hard work and determination.
“We had mutual friends, and it just kind of went from there,” Marlow said. “We traveled a lot with the teams together, and we just started getting to know each other.”
That said, Zabriskie didn’t catch Marlow’s eye right away.
“It was weird, because hanging out with that group at first, I didn’t really notice him at all,” she said, laughing. “He wasn’t the first person I was like, ‘Oh, he’s sorta cute.’ But we hung out together a couple of times, and I thought he was really, really nice. He’s a really sweet guy. When I would get homesick, or had a rough game, he was just always there. He was always so supportive.”
For Zabriskie, the attraction was a little more immediate, though he waited a while to act on it.
“The very first time I ever saw her, she was taking ice with one of her teammates,” he said. “I thought she was really cute. I do remember being in the cafeteria and telling a friend ‘Man, there’s something about Kira, there’s something about her that I really like.’ And that was before we had ever hung out.”
A bit of a loner by his own admission, the former Trapper would make sure to be around her in social situations.
“The kind of guy I am, I keep to myself a lot, but I actually really wanted to get to know her,” Zabriskie said. “If I knew she was hanging out in someone else’s room and there were a couple of friends over there, I would always go. She’s just such a sweet girl, always nice to everyone, always smiling. I loved it.”
Zabriskie eventually got Marlow’s phone number and the two began texting each other when they weren’t hanging out in a group or working events together. Their friendship grew.
And after the first kiss, all bets were off.
“All of a sudden, he just kissed me, and I was really surprised,” Marlow said. “It was like ‘Oh, wow, here we go.’ It just kind of went from there.”
The pair was inseparable from that moment on, up until Zabriskie’s graduation last May. With a year remaining at NWC, Marlow knew the couple would have to take the long-distance route, with Zabriskie continuing his education at Utah Valley University. The two made it work, and over the Christmas break, they decided to make it official. Marlow said she and Zabriskie had discussed the future and the possibility of marriage, but the proposal came as a surprise.
“It was two days before New Year’s Day, and we went out to dinner. It just seemed really normal, nothing out of the ordinary,” she said.
Ever the prankster, Zabriskie actually did a trial run before the dinner, much to Marlow’s chagrin.
“He actually fake-proposed to me like right before dinner,” Marlow said, shaking her head. “We were in this place we’d been to before, Christmas lights everywhere, and he says ‘Hey Kira, wait for a second,’ and gets down on one knee. And then he laughs and says, ‘Ah, just kidding, help me up.’ That made me super angry, I was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’”
But in fairness to Zabriskie, there was a reason for his subterfuge.
“The whole time I was taking her out to dinner and making her think I was going to propose to her then didn’t, my family was actually setting up for the real proposal,” he said.
After dinner, Zabriskie suggested a walk around his dad’s house, situated on a golf course. The pair walked around a pond in the dark to a gazebo.
“It was dark, and I couldn’t really see because I didn’t have my contacts in,” she said.
But as they walked up the steps, strings of lights suddenly illuminated the structure. Zabriskie, joined by his family who decorated the gazebo, proposed for real this time.
“It was cute; it was really sweet,” she said. “I cried, it was great.”
Did Marlow make her fiancé sweat a bit before answering, perhaps as payback for the prank earlier?
She laughed and shook her head. “As soon as the lights came on, I was like, ‘Yes, yes, yes, yes!’”
The couple plans to wed in May at the LDS Temple in Idaho Falls, shortly after Marlow’s graduation from NWC. She will then start classes that fall at UVU towards a degree in respiratory therapy, though whether she will continue playing basketball is up in the air.
As the couple prepares for the next chapter of their lives together, both agree they couldn’t imagine a life without the other in it.
“He’s just such a really, really sweet guy,” Marlow said of Zabriskie. “He’s a door-opener, a gentleman. He’s great that way. And he’s always there for me; he’s such a supportive person.”
“She makes me a better person,” Zabriskie said simply. “It sounds cliche to say things like ‘better half,’ but she actually is the better half of me.”
Lady Trappers head coach Janis Beal laughs when asked if she plans to include “the possibility of finding a husband” as part of her recruiting strategy.
After all, Marlow and Zabriskie’s engagement isn’t the first love connection between players this season: Marlow’s teammate Domenica Gomes from Brazil and Trappers gunner Luc Lombardy from France announced their plans to tie the knot earlier this season. Beal said having two engagements in one year is rare, but players finding their soulmate with another NWC athlete is not as uncommon as one might think. A quick glance at the framed team photos on the wall of her office brings to mind quite a few pairings during her tenure.
“I’ve actually had a lot of players that have met [their future husbands] here throughout the years,” Beal said. “There’s quite a few that have played for me that ended up getting married to someone they’ve met here. I just look back at the pictures and I can see a bunch of different ones.”
Beal knew she had something special when she recruited Marlow, and the sophomore has lived up to expectations on and off the court.
“She’s a great kid, hard worker,” Beal said. “She’s one of those just good people, always caring, always trying to help her teammates out — not just on the court, but off it as well. She’s one of those people who tries to figure out how she can serve other people. That’s a trait that you don’t always find.”
Beal said she and the rest of the team weren’t too surprised when Marlow and Zabriskie announced their plans to make it official.
“Her [Marlow] and Skyler had been dating since last year, and I knew they were talking about the future,” Beal explained. “It was kind of more of a matter of when it was going to happen, rather than if.”
As for Marlow’s choice of a fiance, Beal said her player found a quality guy.
“Skyler’s a kid who didn’t even play high school basketball a lot,” she said. “To be able to come here and play ball, he had to work for everything he got. That’s a good trait to have also.”