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Canyon's Zach Wims: Newfound frontrunner

Canyon senior Zach Wims has a history of resilience, so it’s no surprise he’s winning races

Posted: October 15, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: October 15, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Canyon High senior cross country runner Zach Wims won the first Foothill League varsity race on Sept. 20 with a time of 15 minutes, 22.88 seconds. Canyon High senior cross country runner Zach Wims won the first Foothill League varsity race on Sept. 20 with a time of 15 minutes, 22.88 seconds.
Canyon High senior cross country runner Zach Wims won the first Foothill League varsity race on Sept. 20 with a time of 15 minutes, 22.88 seconds.

When Zach Wims came from behind to win the season’s first Foothill League cross country race last month, it only confirmed what the Canyon coaching staff had been saying about the senior all along.

“I don’t think it was an upset,” says Canyon cross country head coach Paul Broneer of the Sept. 20 race.

It was Canyon’s first individual victory at a league meet since Stephen Kent won a Foothill title in 2006.

Wims won the three-mile race in 15 minutes, 22.88 seconds after shooting past Golden Valley’s Nolan Del Valle in the final stretch.

In the process, the Canyon senior outshone three runners with CIF State Championship experience — Saugus’ A.J. Yarnall, Golden Valley’s Brendan Tinoco and Del Valle, who took 10th in state individually last year.

But Broneer and others in the Canyon camp

insist they saw this coming from Wims, who will try to repeat his performance today in the second Foothill meet of the season which was rescheduled due to rain on Thursday.

“It kind of just came out of nowhere really,” Wims says of the first Foothill race. “I haven’t been working on speed until this year.”

But last month’s win was far from a fluke, and Wims backed it up a week later with another victory in the varsity race of the Staub/Barnes Invitational in La Crescenta. He ran a winning time of 15:33 to once again beat out second-place Del Valle by three seconds.

Week by week, Wims’ confidence grows, and if his past is any indication, he’ll continue shaving seconds off his times.

“We won’t peak until November, so as long as he doesn’t get injured, he’ll keep getting better and better and he’ll be at his best for the CIF finals,” Broneer says.

Even Wims has to admit he never imagined himself emerging as an elite runner in a highly decorated running community like the Santa Clarita Valley.

As a freshman, he didn’t consider himself much of a runner at all.

He didn’t finish all that high among competition at his grade level and he just barely made the track and field team his freshman year.

But it was around that time he had an epiphany.

Becoming a successful runner doesn’t necessarily come naturally to people, Wims thought to himself. It can be earned.

And his theory began to take shape the more he ran and devoted time to his craft.

“From running more, I realized I gained the capability of pushing myself,” Wims says. “So I learned how to push myself and train harder.”

Part of Wims’ realization came from one specific moment in ninth grade.

He was trying out for the track team in the spring of 2010, knowing full well he hadn’t been running all winter and was relatively out of shape.

He had to run a mile in 5:45 or less to make the squad. As he began his final lap around the track, Wims knew it was going to come down to the wire.

He knew there was a lot on the line. He said he likely would have quit cross country all together had he failed to make it.

Then, out of nowhere, track and field and cross country assistant coach Chris Jackson joined Wims on the track and finished the final 400 meters with him stride-for-stride.

By just a couple seconds, Wims made the cut, and his running career continued.

“At that point, I’m just like, ‘Even though I’m not that good, I might as well go with it and see where it takes me,” Wims says.

At this pace, it could take him pretty far.

“We didn’t see a lot of talent. Clearly he had the talent, we just didn’t see it at the time,” Jackson says of Wims’ freshman year. “He was still figuring out how to run, still figuring out what it took to be a successful runner. ... His freshman year, he didn’t have that hard-working, disciplined side that made him into what he is now.”

Since then, Wims’ career has seen a steady incline.

Last year, he took third in the Foothill League 3,200-meter final in track and field and fifth in the cross country
league final.

This year, he’s clearly dialed it up a notch and he wants to bring the rest of the team with him.

“He’s a very hard worker,” says Canyon senior runner Joel Estrada. “As a teammate, whenever (we have to do) a really hard workout and half the people are like, ‘Why do we have to do this?’ Zach is the one going, ‘Come on guys, we can do this. We can go faster if anything.’”

The last time the Cowboys made a state championship in cross country was in 2009, when Wims was a non-varsity freshman runner.

That team took fifth in state, and like this year, it was a team not chosen to even contend for a Foothill title.
Wims got a taste of what it was like to be around such a successful team, and now he wants to experience it firsthand.

It may seem like a lofty goal for a fairly young team, but as long as Wims keep winning races, it’ll be hard to count out the Cowboys.

“When people around the valley were looking at who the top guys were going to be, pretty much the only people that thought Zach Wims were the Canyon coaches,” Jackson says.

Perhaps those are the same coaches now saying, “I told you so.”



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