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At the 2015 OHSAA Cross Country State Championships, Zach Kreft finished 146th in the Div 2 race. Last place. It's a jarring stat that makes you realize just how amazing his rise through Ohio athletics has been. Since that meet, he's won the Div 2 XC title in 2016 and 2017 and qualified to Footlocker Nationals. On the track, he's racked up state meet finishes and fast times while demolishing the Buckeye Valley record books. As the blazing fast senior wraps up his final year of high school racing, we caught up with him to learn about what makes him tick, why he's racing for Notre Dame in the fall, and how much wind resistance a plastic sword creates when you're racing a road mile.
CRC: Starting off this season, what were your goals going into the year?
ZK: Going into this season, I set my goals high. I wanted to break the 9 minute barrier for the 3200 and go as close to 4 minutes in the 1600 as I could. I have met my first goal in running 8:58 in the 3200 at Eastern Relays earlier this season. I am currently working on lowering my 1600 from last season. Overall though, the goal is to win the State Championship; I'm still deciding which event I want to do at States.
CRC: How did you get started with running? What drew you to the sport?
ZK: I started running in 7th grade when I joined the cross country team. At the time, I was more into baseball; running was just something I could do to hang out with my friends. After my 7th grade season though, I realized I was decent and kept the sport up. Now I run year round and stopped playing baseball when I entered high school after my Coach, Nate Ritz, thought it'd be a good idea if I ran track too.
CRC: What's been the highlight of your high school running career? What's it like to win a state title?
ZK: The highlight of my high school running career has definitely been qualifying for the the Footlocker National Meet held in San Diego, California. The experience was like no other. I got to meet some of the nation's best, meet pro athletes (my favorite: Emma Coburn), and run in the fastest race to take place in the United States for high school. That trip is something I will never forget. Aside from the trip, my State Championships mean a lot to me. Winning the State title is the best feeling in the world; it's the race you can say "all of that hard work paid off." It's a humbling and very emotional experience.
CRC: You've run some fast times at the Mile Dash road race while carrying a sword. What's it like to be the fastest mascot, and how much drag do the props add?!
ZK: Haha yes I have run the Mile Mascot race dressed as our mascot, a Baron. The sword and shield don't create too much drag, surprisingly. I find it interesting to try running with it (I use a belt to keep the sword around my waist during the race) but every time it seems to go smoothly. It's a very fun race to do with the team and we all give our best to see what we can hit over the summer.
CRC: What's it like to be on the Buckeye Valley track team? Is there anything special that the team does that really makes it more of a family for you?
ZK: Being on the Buckeye Valley track team is such a great experience, especially this year. We have a surplus of guys and girls that are putting so much work in this season and the results are showing. The team culture this year has been great and we have many athletes competing at the Regional level (and hopefully State) this weekend. The thing that makes BV's track team a family is how close everyone on the team is. I think everyone on the team has created a bond with every other runner which makes the team really close.
CRC: I believe that you've committed to Notre Dame, right? What are your collegiate running goals & beyond? How did you pick your college?
ZK: Yes, I will be attending Notre Dame this fall. I chose Notre Dame, first, for their great academic program. I want to pursue engineering and their program is ranked in the top 20 nationwide. Secondly, I chose Notre Dame because of the coach and his vision. Coach Carlson has a vision to make Notre Dame a power house in cross country and wants to make that change immediately. The recruiting class I'm coming into is one of the best in the nation, and I want to help make his vision a reality. The team culture and religious aspect of Notre Dame were also contributions to why I choose to attend here. I feel like I really fit in at Notre Dame and cannot wait to become a part of the Fighting Irish family.