By Gregg A. Sims
Washington Times Herald
Last Friday wasn’t a difficult day for Loogootee senior Zach Wagler. It wasn’t necessarily easy, but at the same time, it was a day that he could handle.
Wagler had set his sights on a track record that was set 31 years ago. He had been anticipating the day of breaking it beginning with this past winter.
Wagler ran last Friday at home for the Lions with the 1,600 meter mark of 4:40.3 set in 1982 by Alan Brown within his reach.
Wagler had already broken the mark in practice runs, so the possibility of running a better time wasn’t a big secret.
In fact, the possibility of a new record was known well enough that Loogootee High School principal and athletic director John Mullen took the time to make an announcement to the school that Wagler was going to do his best to break the record that night.
Wagler had enough friends that encouraged him along the way. He went through his school day, got some rest, prepared properly with the end result being a new record of 4:36.89.
“I just wanted to do something different at Loogootee,” Wagler said. “Basketball, baseball, softball, volleyball are all important here, but I just never really got into it. I really didn’t start getting into it
(running) until my junior year. I knew the record, and I wanted to see if I could break it. I figured I had nothing to lose.” The Loogootee senior started well this past fall with an appearance in the cross country semistate after qualifying from sectional and regional competition.
“It was a big confidence boost,” Wagler said of the cross country campaign. “It showed me I could run with some of the big dogs. It was just great to compete and see how much better you can get.” That success carried Wagler into the winter where he worked with Barr-Reeve runners Connor Sorrells and Damon Pruett.
“I’ve been able to run with them,” Wagler said. “It’s great to have people who can really push you. I’ve been able to run with them this winter. It really helps to work with guys who know what they are doing. They’ve been there – they’ve been to state. Connor won the state at cross country. It’s been great to work with those guys.” Wagler said his winter work changed a bit this past season. He was prepping for a season as opposed to simply running.
“I tried to not focus on road races and hitting the long runs to get my base down so I could enter the track season knowing I had my base down,” Wagler said. “I also did a lot of speed workouts, and that helped a lot.” When the weather didn’t cooperate, inside work was on the schedule.
“If it was bad enough, I would do long runs on a treadmill,” Wagler said.
Long runs are around 15 miles give or take a mile here and there. “It’s not as much fun because you’re not on the road, but it helped. It’s hard to concentrate, but I think it is helpful.” “It was a goal all winter,” Wagler said. “I was glad to see the season get here. It’s not hard to get down on yourself in the winter when it is harder to see progress.” While the record was great, it’s not the goal for the big picture.
“I’m looking forward to the tournament,” Wagler said. “That’s the goal. This was good - it was fun for that day. But I want to keep pushing on.”