Zingsheim's Story an Award-Winner

May 31, 2012

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Zack Zingsheim’s career highlight is an easy pick.

It was just a few months ago, at Michigan International Speedway, when he stunned even himself by winning the MHSAA Division 3 cross country championship.

He can describe in vivid detail being the last to come out of the chute at the finish, looking into the grandstand and telling himself to always remember the moment. He can see again his teammates further down the chute, chanting his name. The goose bumps he felt. How they jumped the fence, lifted him to their shoulders and carried him off the course.

It was the greatest day he could remember. And it ended with a pie in the face.

“I remember how surreal the moment was,” he said. “Since I was a little kid, I thought it would be so cool to win the state meet for cross country; the atmosphere is so amazing.”

Nearly as amazing is he doesn’t remember the flavor of the pie.

Zingsheim tells a story with the best of them – thanks in part  to a keen photographic memory and attention to detail.

But he gets a Second Half High 5 this week because of his status as one of the state’s top high school runners – and what a tale he’s spun over the last year.

Zingsheim has the top-seeded Division 3 time in the 800 meters (1:55.30) heading into Saturday’s Finals at Comstock High School, and also runs on the top-seeded 800, 1,600 and 3,200 relays. He and his teammates won the 800 relay at last season’s Finals, and he has or is part of school records in all four of those races, plus the 400. He’s also the fastest in Cougars cross country history.

Another of his favorite stories to tell explains why.

Diamond in the rough

He remembers seeing the Corunna baseball diamond in the distance. That’s key to this story.

Zingsheim was a freshman in 2009, running the second leg of the 800 relay, and had just taken the baton. His right hip had been feeling tight and then painful over the previous couple of weeks, but he felt great at that point as he glanced ahead and saw the baseball field.

The next step, he felt like he got hit with a baseball square in the right hip. But there was no baseball.

He tried to bring the leg forward, and couldn’t. He dragged his leg the next 100 meters to complete his handoff, and then collapsed.

Zingsheim did see a “flabby piece of bone just laying there.” He started crying. His parents immediately drove him to the hospital as he screamed the lyrics to whatever was on the radio to try to forget the pain. (And yes, he remembered one off the songs: “Boom Boom Pow” by the Black Eyed Peas.)

The flexor muscle that connected his hamstring to his pelvis had torn and taken the top of that part of his pelvic bone with it.

Next came months of therapy and changes. He’d started on the freshman basketball team, but decided to stop that sport and focus on running. Still, he couldn’t get in shape that summer because he couldn’t put in the miles, and his sophomore cross country season wasn’t what he’d wanted – until he ran a personal best late in the season and got a needed confidence boost.

“There’s something so special about being able to run so hard and seeing hard work come to fruition on the course or the track,” Zingsheim said. “And especially, seeing how far I had to come. I wanted to see what kind of runner I could become if I put all that work in.”

His 1,600 relay finished eighth at the 2010 Division 3 Finals, another turning point. A year later, Lansing Catholic coach Tim Simpson needed a fill-in on the 800 relay. The date was April 13, 2011 – a day shy of two years since he’d suffered the pelvic break. “I’ve never been so nervous for another race,” he said. But the Cougars set a school record, and he’s been on that relay since.

A long road traveled

“He’s come a long way, but he’s always had that ability,” Simpson said. “He ran 50-70 miles a week during the summer. He reads about the top runners, follows it, so he know what they’re doing, what you’re supposed to do if you’re going to be good.”

There’s always an eye on the details; Zingsheim’s got a reputation among his classmates as the guy who always is last to turn in his tests. He gets done quickly, but spends the rest of the period double and triple-checking his answers to make sure everything is right.

There are plenty of other stories, of course. Like how he and his talented classmates – Lansing Catholic’s senior boys also played in the Division 5 Football Final in the fall – split up during middle school into football teams that stayed the same for months and turned into fierce rivalries. (He played receiver.)

He’s earned the story-teller role in his family too; at gatherings he’s often the go-to guy for a “quirky” or “goofy” family tale.

But the stories he’ll be most proud to be part of are those that get passed down to Lansing Catholic runners after him.

Zingsheim was in first grade when his brother Brandon was a senior on the cross country and track teams and began the Cougars’ tradition of saying a “Hail Mary” and chanting “Hey Cougars, what we going to do?” Zack is among those who now lead that rally.

Lansing Catholic had outstanding runners before Zingsheim. But with him and a strong group of individuals including distance seniors Jimmy Hicks (who will walk-on at the University of Georgia), Austin Winter and Joe Marrah, they could cap their careers with the team’s first MHSAA championship.

“What I really wanted to do by the time my tenure was done was lay a foundation. Build the program; do things the right way,” Zingsheim said. “I wanted to teach guys what it means to be an LCC runner.

“The last four years, we’ve really been able to build that program. … And I’m so excited to see where the program is going the next couple of years.”

Click to read more about Zingsheim's inspirations and aspirations.

PHOTO: Lansing Catholic's Zack Zingsheim was part of the championship-winning 800 relay at last season's Division 3 Final. 

Red Devils Impress as Ironwood Honors Record-Setter with Jim LaBlonde Invitational

By John Vrancic
Special for MHSAA.com

May 20, 2024

IRONWOOD — The Ironwood track & field teams provided themselves with an opportunity to do a victory lap on a very special Saturday earlier this month.

Upper PeninsulaBoth teams were crowned champions at the first Jim LaBlonde Invitational on May 11 on their 350-meter track during a sunny and mild afternoon.

The Ironwood girls scored 126 points, followed by Hurley, Wis., with 43, Ontonagon 37 and Watersmeet with 13. Ironwood’s boys collected 100 points, followed by Hurley at 84, Ontonagon 32 and Watersmeet with seven in a meet held in honor of the former Luther L. Wright High School star athlete who passed away due to an aneurysm on March 31, 2019.

LaBlonde, who was recently inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame, was an all-Upper Peninsula football player and still holds school records in the 100 and 200-meter dashes from his senior year in 1997.

“This is very special to me personally,” Ironwood coach Cecilia Aho said. “Jim was a great person and athlete. I came to Ironwood from Argentina in December 2003 and know the family very well. I had some good conversations with Jim before he passed. This is a great tribute to him. It turned out to be a beautiful day. We had perfect weather and the kids from all four schools were smiling and having fun.

“Jim was well known in the community, not only as a coach, but as a parent. He was a phenomenal runner and football player.”

LaBlonde played football for three years at Wisconsin-LaCrosse and was on the school’s track team for a year while earning his bachelor’s degree in physical education in 2003.

He was a middle school teacher and coach in the Howard-Suamico District near Green Bay, Wis., at the time of his passing.

“He always asked about what was going on in Ironwood and was a good leader,” Aho said. “He would never turn his back on you when you asked him a question. The kids loved him. I wish I would have had a chance to work with him.”

The Ironwood teams take a photo together, at top, after sweeping the meets. Below, from left, LaBlonde’s brother-in-law Dave Lundin, sister Dena Lundin and parents Marlene and Jim LaBlonde attend the meet. Senior Aubrey Smith topped a field of four Ironwood runners in the 1600-meter run in 5 minutes, 55.69 seconds, followed by freshman Iyla Lagalo (6:54.08) and sophomore Aubrey Balduc (7:21.16).

Smith also won the 300 hurdles at 52.43, more than six seconds ahead of the rest of the field.

“It was nice to have everyone here,” Smith said. “It’s nice to have a home meet, especially on a Saturday. I think it’s a fun meet. It’s nice to know everyone here. I think this gives me a little momentum going into our remaining meets.”

Sophomore Emma Wardon was also a double winner for the Red Devils, taking shot put (32-11) and discus (87-0).

Ironwood sophomore Logan Holm took the 110 hurdles (20.17) and 300s (48.05), and Hurley had a triple-winner in junior Jeremiah Wallis, who captured the 100 (12.0), 200 (24.52) and long jump (17-3).

Watersmeet junior Thomas Carson won the 400 (54.06), five days after setting the school record (52.31) while placing second in the Welker Invitational at Ashland, Wis. (52.31).

“I strained my hamstring in Ashland,” he said. “It was a little windy up by the big lake (Superior) and there were a lot of good runners up there. I’m probably about 80-90 (percent), but everything went okay. I just wanted to make sure I didn’t overdo it. This is a nice little meet, especially for a Saturday.”

Ontonagon sophomore Violet Amos took the 200 (28.26) and 400 (1:02.03) and was runner-up to Hurley senior Jaana Aukee on a lean (13.65) in the 100.

“I’ve been in the 27s in the 200, but I’m very happy with my time in the 400” Amos said. “This being a little smaller track was probably a factor because the curves are a little tighter. I prefer to run a 400-meter track, although I like the running surface and competition.

“It’s always fun to come here. Our track is getting resurfaced. I’m looking forward to running on it the next couple years.”

Ontonagon coach Brian Amos said he also enjoys going to Ironwood.

“Ironwood runs a nice meet, and we get a chance to see Hurley,” he added. “It’s always nice to run against somebody different.”

John VrancicJohn Vrancic has covered high school sports in the Upper Peninsula since joining the Escanaba Daily Press staff in 1985. He is known most prominently across the peninsula for his extensive coverage of cross country and track & field that frequently appears in newspapers from the Wisconsin border to Lake Huron. He received the James Trethewey Award for Distinguished Service in 2015 from the Upper Peninsula Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association.

PHOTOS (Top) Ribbons and medals are set out to be awarded during the first Jim LaBlonde Invitational at Ironwood. (Middle) The Ironwood teams take a photo together, at top, after sweeping the meets. Below, from left, LaBlonde’s brother-in-law Dave Lundin, sister Dena Lundin and parents Marlene and Jim LaBlonde attend the meet. (Photos provided by the Ironwood Red Devil Booster Club.)