Feature photo courtesy of Zach Shinnick.
Coming from a family with a rich sports tradition can be a daunting task, especially one that has had both parents and grandparents competing at a high level. Zach Shinnick however, has been holding his own in the family. While one of his grandfathers was an NFL linebacker for 13 years, as well as an NFL assistant coach for 19 years, the other was a USC high jumper. His mother was a standout high school swimmer and his father was an All-American running back before playing football at a Penn State and Cal.
In only his junior year, at Damien High School (CA), Shinnick is already regarded as one of the top sprinters in the nation.
Shinnick is an elite all-around sprinter and has performed exceptionally well in multiple sprinting events ranging from the 55-meter dash all the way up to the 400-meter dash thus far in his track and field career. He ascribes his practice regime for being able to handle the vast number of events.
“It comes down to practice,” Shinnick said. “In practice my trainer calls me ‘a sprinter that can run the 400,’ that’s what he like to define me as.” He adds, “I practice sprinting a lot because during summer and fall that’s when I hit all my hills to get my strength up. During the indoor season, that’s when I really focus on my speed because at that point you have enough strength and it’s more about keeping that strength with you throughout the season.”
In his sophomore season, Shinnick ran 6.52 in the 55-meter dash, a personal and school record of 10.55 [wind-aided] in the 100-meter dash, 21.09 [wind-aided] in the 200-meter dash, and 47.19 in the 400-meter dash, but he won no state championship victories.
In this year’s indoor season, Shinnick was on a mission and came home with two state championship victories in the 60-meter dash and 300-meter dash.
“It was a good season and I had fun doing it,” he said. “I went 6.76 [in the 60m dash] and 32.9 [in the 300m dash] and that won states for us, for our California indoor.”
Coming into this year’s outdoor season, Shinnick planned to build upon his indoor success by lowering his times and helping his team capture a CIF Division III title.
“I try to take it one step at a time,” Shinnick said. “As a team, we really want to win CIF Division III so we’re going after that first, but personally I would like to run 45 in the 400 and 20.60 in the 200 and that would be a good season for me.”
Shinnick’s season started off with a huge victory at Bishop Amat Relays in which he had personal record time of 10.53 in the 100-meter dash to go along with a first place finish.
However, his season has been hindered by an ongoing hamstring injury that he suffered during Arcadia Invitational.
“I suffered from the injury bug, especially this year,” Shinnick said. “I recently pulled my hamstring at Arcadia. I’m trying to get back from that.”
Although his times have dropped slightly, due to the injury, the rehab process has been great. Shinnick credits his coaches and friends for pushing him throughout the process as he looks forward to the state championship meet this Saturday.
“I have a great group of coaches and friends around me that have been pushing me throughout the whole rehab process,” he said. “I’ve been getting looked at by good doctors and trainers at our school and It’s really helpful that I have friends and family that have been telling me to keep pushing through this. I mean, without them I wouldn’t really have anything. I’m really grateful for them helping me push through all the hard times.”
Being able to balance running and excelling in a multitude of sprinting events can be tough. Especially when you know you have to run a 400-meter dash, just before the 4×200 meter relay, and a 4×400 meter relay to cap off meets. Shinnick, however, looks forward to the 400-meter dash and attributes his success to his work ethic and love for the race.
“I have a great work ethic; I really like to run,” Shinnick said. “In the 400, a lot of people are afraid to run it. I would say I’m one of the few that like to run the 400. I mean it hurts at the end, but it hurts for a reason. It’s a man’s race and only men run the 400.”
Thus far, Shinnick has had a great recruiting experience.
“It’s a surreal feeling because it’s something that you dream of, such as going to college for free doing what you love,” he said. “I didn’t want it to get to my head because I knew that if I kept working like I have then more offers would be coming.
“I’ve received interest from many schools; I’ve received an offer from UCLA. I have interest from USC, Texas A&M, and LSU” Shinnick said.
UCLA is the school that has stuck out to him the most because it is close to home and it has great academics to go along with a rich a track and field program. He has taken two unofficial visits, a tour, and has already hung out with friends from the track and field team.
Shinnick knows the importance of his upcoming decision and has much preparation left, he hopes to finish all of his visits by late summer-early fall and make a decision by November.
“I know that my track career isn’t all there is” he said. “Going to a school with a great education is still a priority for me but also I have to balance that with schools that’s going to grow my track career the best, it’s kind of hard to balance them but it’s a decision that I will hopefully make in the fall.”
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