He's a fast learner

Zach Brown's determination to succeed and tireless work ethic paid off when he became a standout in three sports at Wilde Lake


May 30, 2007|By Alejandro Danois | Alejandro Danois,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Zach Brown stepped on the track for the first time three years ago and found moderate success. He finished his first season by placing seventh in the 100-meter dash at the regional championships and did not compete at the state meet.

"I didn't know anything about running," the Wilde Lake senior recalled. "I worked out a lot over that summer and really paid attention to my form."

One of the major problems to overcome had to do with his hands. For most of his life, he had done his fastest running while cradling a football. When he raced down the track during his freshman year, he did what came naturally.

"I ran like I had a football in my hands," Brown said.

Over the summer, he worked on his technique. Not only did he pay attention to the proper placement and swing of his arms, he also corrected the angle of his head, which had previously tilted toward the sky. He then directed his attention to the starting blocks.

Before every practice that next season, he worked on exploding out of the blocks, running a series of 10 50-meter sprints while his teammates were stretching and arriving to practice.

"I had to be consistent with my times coming out of the blocks or I would keep doing it over until I got it right," Brown said.

His determination to succeed and tireless work ethic would pay off when he became a standout not only on the track, but also in football and wrestling.

He was the 2007 All-Metro Wrestler of the Year after compiling a record of 29-0 with 17 pins and five technical falls while winning the 4A-3A state championship in the 215-pound weight class.

As a running back-linebacker, Brown, 6 feet 2 and 220 pounds, was the Howard County Player of the Year and a first-team All-Metro football selection after amassing 20 touchdowns and 1,537 rushing yards with an average of 7.4 yards per carry.

On the track, he made tremendous strides during his sophomore year. He was the 100- and 200-meter regional champion that season and placed third in the 100-meter dash at the state championships.

Last year, he won two 3A state titles, capturing the 100-meter dash in 10.67 seconds and the 200-meter in 21.52. Both of those times were the fastest of any area athlete last spring, earning him first team All-Metro honors.

"He's real explosive," Wilde Lake sprint coach James Rooths said. "When he gets out of the blocks, guys can hang with him for the first 50 meters. But those last 50 meters, and when he comes out of the curve in the 200-meters, he just blows everybody away."

This past weekend, Brown ended his high school athletic career with a second-place finish in the 100-meters in the state championships at Morgan State University.

Although his prowess in all three sports became evident during his sophomore year, when he first began receiving recruiting letters from Division I colleges, Brown has remained humble about his accomplishments.

Growing up in rural South Carolina, he moved to Columbia in Howard County while in middle school to live with his father and uncle. He initially played sports because his family thought it would benefit him socially, especially when he was new to the area and missing his mother, sisters and friends from South Carolina.

"He's not an arrogant kid," Rooths said. "He's focused, serious and relaxed during competition, but he's real humble. Whatever you say to him as a coach and a mentor, he absorbs it."

Said Brown: "When I won the state championships in track last year, the first people I called were my older sisters in South Carolina. The first thing they said was, `Don't be cocky and let it go to your head, and don't let up because there's someone out there that can beat you.' They're always telling me to have fun, don't brag and let other people talk about the good stuff that I do."

His mother and sisters traveled to see him play high school football for the first time this season. Unfortunately, in the final game of his career against Hammond, he was used sparingly because the game turned into a lopsided win for the Wildecats. But they were, nevertheless, impressed with his two touchdowns and 125 rushing yards on three carries, as well as the interception that he nearly returned for another score in the Wildecats' 43-6 victory.

In addition to being recognized as a standout athlete, Brown also is known as a prankster with a warm smile who talks with everyone.

After he had completed the 400-meter relay at a meet this season, he went to his teammates on the relay and informed each of them that they would be running the 1,600-meter relay. He instructed them to warm up and get ready.

"They were mad because we'd just finished the [400], and they were tired," Brown said with a laugh. "They were arguing with each other and couldn't believe we had to run the [1,600]."

When they went to check in, they were notified that their names were not listed on any sheets for the event. Amid their confusion, Brown was relaxing in the team tent. When they barged in looking for him, his smile brought laughter to the entire team.

He plans to give up wrestling, though he wishes he did not have to.

"Wrestling teaches you that you can't give up for a second no matter how tired you are because if you do, that's when you'll get beat," Brown said. "It's hard to give it up, but it's impossible to play three sports at the next level."

In the fall, he will enroll at Hargrave Military Academy for six months to fortify his academics in preparation for college. In February, he will begin attending the University of Maryland on a full football scholarship, just in time for the start of spring practice. Slated to play safety and/or linebacker, he also plans to run track for the Terrapins.

"I just keep thinking that I want to do my best so I can help get my team where we want to go," Brown said. "Whether we lose or win, I always want to be able to say that I did my best."

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