Fielder signs with WCUBy CAMAL PETRO,
Oak Grove senior Zachary Fielder has gone through just about everything during his high school track and field career. He’s suffered through a knee injury, a shoulder injury, disappointment at the State Track Meet and he’s felt the glory of becoming a State Champion while breaking a state record.
All of those experiences culminated for Fielder’s big day. On Monday he signed to continue his career across town at William Carey University, where he’ll be coached by his former high school coach, WCU assistant Ryan McKenzie.
“I’m very excited and nervous at the same time,” Fielder said. “I’m pretty pumped.”
When McKenzie left Oak Grove for William Carey, he told Fielder to keep training and the WCU coaches would keep an eye on him throughout the rest of his prep career. During the last few years, McKenzie gave Fielder tips on how to train and prepare for competitions, then Fielder received the offer to join the Crusaders’ program earlier this school year.
Fielder usually runs for the Warriors’ cross country team in the fall, too, but was held out this season due to a shoulder injury he suffered in August. He was finally cleared after the season to start training for the upcoming track and field season this spring.
The shoulder injury kept him away from the track for four months.
“When I got released I started running again,” he said. “I’m still not quite there, but I’m getting there. (The shoulder) wasn’t really that bad at first. Just the pulling when I was pumping my arms, I definitely could feel it. I still don’t have my range of motion completely back, but it does affect you, believe it or not. Swaying your arm and pumping, because going uphill, you have to use your arms more. It’s a lot of arms, more than people know.”
The shoulder wasn’t the only injury Fielder had to battle through. As a freshman, he ran most of the season on a torn meniscus in his knee. Despite the injury, he still qualified for the State Meet in the 3,200-meter run.
“I wasn’t going to run at state at first because of my knee,” Fielder said. “I decided to run and finished in eighth place out of eight. On the second-to-last lap, my knee started killing me, and I wasn’t really happy with the results because of it.”
Fielder rebounded from the injury by qualifying for the State Meet on the 4x800-meter relay team his sophomore and juniors seasons. The team placed second in 2016, then claimed first place last season by breaking the state record with a time of 8:16.92.
What makes the feat even more astonishing is the fact that Oak Grove doesn’t have a typical track to practice on, but instead a concrete loop around a practice field.
“It was definitely a group effort because everybody dropped times,” he said. “Most of us were 2:14, 2:10 (per leg) for the 800 (meters), then everybody went under 2:10, and I think all of us were under 2:06. That’s a huge difference in the time. We all, I guess, realized how to run the 800 better and got more experienced.”
Fielder said he’s probably not going to defend his title and run the 4x800-meter relay this season because most of his relay team graduated. He wants to focus on the 800-, 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs instead.