Orange Lutheran senior Zac Blain did not have any specific plans to participate in sports when he arrived on campus as a freshman. His mother, who always felt her son would be good at running, suggested he try cross country as a way to meet new people before the school year began.
Running clicked with Blain, and he has been a three-year varsity and four-year participant in the Lancers cross country and track and field programs. The more he runs, the more he gets out of the sport.
“I like how it feels when you get deep into a run and it gets hard and more challenging,” says Blain. “Seeing the results at the end, that’s when it’s fun.”
Blain prefers the 3200-meter distance event, and while the mental side of the sport has presented him the most challenges, he relies on his teammates and coaches to help him manage the ups and downs.
“I’ve been through low points in running, where you feel you’re having a bunch of bad runs in a row and are struggling,” says the 17-year old. “But you push through [it] and keep it going.”
As one of OLu’s distance team captains, Blain’s main focus as a leader has been to instill in the program’s younger group of talented runners that they have great potential if they continue to work, train and compete the right way.
“Zac is an exemplary captain of our track and field team and is the gel that holds our team full of underclassmen together,” says OLu cross country head coach and track and field distance coach, Kristen Goossens. “His leadership, fun personality, honesty and dedication are attributes that any coach would love to have from an athlete in their program. Zac has planted a footprint on this program that will last for many years to come.”
In addition to competing as a student athlete, Blain works at Jimmy John’s, where he was recently promoted to manager. He believes that running, as well as his role as a team captain, has given him the tools he needs to be successful at his job.
“It taught me how to be a leader, that’s the biggest thing,” says Blain of running, “and how to lead a team and hold myself and other people accountable. You have to want to do it. It’s up to you if you want to get better.”
Blain intends to study engineering in college, and while he likely will no longer compete with a team, he has a goal of challenging himself as a runner with longer distances, such as half marathons. He will miss his Lancer family, especially distance assistance coach and OLu alumnus, TJ Oros ‘13, who Blain considers his biggest role model.
“He’s seen me come from not knowing what I was doing, and he keeps teaching me more stuff as I go, as it applies to me,” says Blain of Oros. “He’s young too, so he’s relatable. He’s a friend, but also a coach.”
Though his final season as a Lancer may have been cut short, Blain is grateful for the chance to have competed alongside teammates who share a common faith.
“Faith is important because it gives you a different mindset before a race,” says Blain. “When you’re on the starting line racing against a hundred other schools…it gives you a different feeling, that we’re doing this for a reason. And it’s nice to have other kids on the team who feel the same way because we’re all working for it together. That’s helped me look at things in a new way.”