FORT WAYNE – It was a double whammy of disappointment for Concordia’s Zach Panning. First came a heart-breaking finish in the state cross country meet that cost the senior a title, and then he found out that the track and field program at his college of choice, Temple, had been dropped.
Definitely, mentally and emotionally (challenging), Panning said of the ordeals. But I couldn’t have made it through all that without the people behind me and two great parents who have raised me well.
While out in front at the 2013 state cross country meet in November, Panning collapsed from exhaustion with just a few hundred meters remaining.
You just have to accept it, Panning said. That was just a one-race fluke, kind of. I just went too hard too soon and spent it all. I am fine and everything has been fine.
Then the next month while competing in the Nike nationals in Oregon, Panning saw a report on television about Temple’s plans to drop seven athletic programs. He received a call minutes later from an Owls coach confirming the bad news. Eventually, Panning landed at Grand Valley State.
A lot of people have asked me if I have hard feelings with the coaches and stuff, but I don’t at all, Panning said. (The coaches) took it as hard as I did. I was really excited to be out there with them but, again, everything happens for a reason, and I am super excited about going to Grand Valley as well.
Redemption could come in the form of another chance at a state title – in the 3,200-meter race in track. But with the perspective he has gained from the recent disappointments, the plan for the postseason, which begins today with the sectional, has been simplified.
It’s always been motivation, but it has definitely put things into perspective that winning races and winning state championships isn’t what it is all about, Panning said. You want to win a state championship, and I have more incentive to win now. But if I don’t win a state championship, it is OK because I know I am a good runner.
Concordia boys track coach Quinton Dixie said the effect from having the state cross country championship slip away from Panning has been negligible.
What is unique about Zach is he has a very short memory, Dixie said. While a lot of athletes may take such an opportunity to use it as motivation, Zach doesn’t need to do those sorts of things.
More motivation could come from having missed the 2013 track season with a knee injury.
That could have been something that was a negative for Zach and weighed him down or it could have been motivation for this year, Dixie said.
What I have seen from Zach is those types of incidents don’t impact his preparation and his focus.
And after running relays and other events during the season, Panning will concentrate on just the 3,200.
I am pretty fresh in that, and I am ready to run it fresh, Panning said. (His times) keep getting a little faster and a little faster. I hope they keep doing that.