By Greg Gulas
There’s a reason as to why the Youngstown State track and field and cross country teams have become such a force on the regional and national levels.
Much is due in part to the fact that head coach Brian Gorby and staff are one of the Horizon League’s top recruiters. When other teams are forced to rebuild, all YSU has to do is reload and that’s why the Penguins are enjoying another run this season.
There are 29 Horizon League championship banners won by both YSU’s men’s and women’s teams in the Watson and Tressel Training Site. Since taking over the reins full-time during the 1992-93 season, Gorby’s teams have become the gold standard in the Midwest and beyond.
“We’ve had some excellent athletes that are responsible for those championships and our goal every season is to compete for a league title,” Gorby said.
During last weekend’s Kent State University Golden Flash Gala, a program first took place. Sophomore Chad Zallow — a Warren JFK grad — ran the nation’s fastest 60-meter hurdles race of the indoor season. He is now ranked No. 1 in the nation out of more than 350 Division I hurdlers. It’s the first time a YSU athlete has held that honor.
Last season, YSU’s Conner Neu was ranked No. 1 in the hammer throw for a week.
“It’s nice to be off to a great start and be ahead of the game from last year. I opened up with a much faster time so I’m excited to see what’s yet to come,” Zallow said. “It feels really great to be the first Penguin to be ranked No. 1 two weeks in a row and tells me that all of my hard work is paying off. I’m just hoping that I can continue this success.”
Zallow’s 7.74 time last Saturday was a tenth of a second ahead of the rest of the nation and .11 better than his fastest competitor, Amere Lattin of the University of Houston.
Last February during his initial collegiate campaign, Zallow posted the fastest time ever run — 7.69 — by a 19-year-old or under, which was also the fastest time ever in the 100-plus years of U.S. track and field history by a 19-year-old or under at sea level.
For his efforts he was named the Horizon League’s Freshman of the Year.
“I think that I can go much faster than I am right now,” he said.
“It’s good to see I’m opening with such fast times, but I feel as if my times will only get faster.”
His coach, David Towns-end, has coached 30 team and individual sprint and hurdles champions, including 16 the past two seasons.
“Chad has improved his speed and his technique is just great. He came to YSU pretty much a finished product,” Townsend said.
“We fixed some minor things, but overall he works really hard and enjoys the competition. Right now his 7.74 time was good enough for third or fourth last year at the finals and you have to be in the top 16 in order to qualify. His time would easily be in the top 16 right now.”
Also at the Golden Flash Gala, Zallow’s brother, Carl, posted 6.80 to win the 60 meter dash. The junior is now ranked 16th in the nation out of 450 sprinters nationwide.
He, too, was a Freshman of the Year.
“Running 6.8 was nice, but I’m gunning for 6.7 and if I can get in the 6.7’s then I will be extremely happy,” Carl said.
“That will put me in position to score a lot of points and maybe even win the league dash event, which is also a goal of mine.”
Qualifying for nationals along with his brother is also a goal.
“I have to drop my time a lot, that’s for sure so I’ll just keep working hard, run as fast as I can and whatever time comes out in the end I will be happy with,” he said.
“I know that I give it my all in practice and meets and I’m always happy with my results. I’m at peace with that.”
Shot putter Ryan Booth began the indoor season with a heave of 57 feet and is ranked No. 10 nationally.
He was the Horizon League freshman field Athlete of the Year two years ago and its indoor field honoree last season.
“As far as the throw goes, it wasn’t that great for the opener but I will take it,” Booth said.
“I can definitely throw a lot farther and while top-10 is great, being in the top five is even better.”
The Zallow brothers and Booth combined to help lead YSU to the 2016 Horizon Leaque Triple Crown — indoor track, outdoor track and cross country — with the goal to repeat in 2017.
The YSU women won back-to-back league triple crowns, turning the feat in both 2013 and again in 2014.
With one of the best ever recruiting classes in YSU and Horizon League history, there’s no reason to think that the men won’t turn the trick once again this year.