Gehm wins USATF U20 title, earns Team USA roster spot
Freshman earns Team USA spot
BY Brian Dzenis
Zach Gehm broke his phone. He almost broke a scoreboard and then won a gold medal.
The freshman discus thrower became the Youngstown State track team’s first national champion at the USA Track and Field U20 Championships in Miramar, Fla., on Saturday.
“I’m not getting any of the ‘congrats’ or ‘good job’ texts, so maybe when I get back to Youngstown, get a new phone and see people congratulate me, that’s when this is all going to sink in,” Gehm said. “I’m going to enjoy this. I get a whole beach day [today] and then get back to practice.
In the past 28 years, YSU has had several athletes make the USATF U20 Championship. Middle distance runner Sean Peterson and hurdlers Collin Harden and Chad Zallow have been the Penguins’ most recent entries. Valley Christian graduate Jamynk Jackson competes in the 200 meter dash today.
Gehm won a spot with Team USA for the Pan American U20 Championships in Costa Rica starting July 18. After he won the gold with his best throw coming in at 60.31 meters, he was whisked away to be fitted for his Team USA uniform and clothes.
“It was honestly dumbfounding. I came down here thinking about the task at hand. I wasn’t even thinking about getting all this gear and going to Costa Rica,” Gehm said. “It was the end goal, but I wasn’t focusing on that. After I had to take a drug test and got my medal, it was like ‘crap, I just won and I’m going to Costa Rica.’”
He had an inauspicious start. He ruined his cellphone by taking it in the shower with him and leaving it on a wet ledge. One of his warmup throws almost took out a scoreboard where the long jump was taking place. After fouling his first attempt, Gehm got into a groove, with at 57.25 mark on his third try putting him in the finals. He took the leading on his fourth throw and no one could touch him from there. His best mark came on his fifth throw.
“He was moving really well, but he was a little tense. I’ve never seen him yank it that hard in warmups,” YSU throws coach Megan Tomei said. “Once he started to relax and throw the discus. Everything started to connect and he was able to wind everything up that he knows how to.”
Gehm estimates he received at least 20 articles of clothing from Team USA, including four shirts, two jackets, a rain jacket, three sets of shorts, two uniform tops, a set of tights and a set of socks. He also received a suitcase to carry all of the items.
“I had a bunch of USA stuff and I gave it all away to a friend at the beginning of the school year because I knew this would be the highlight of my season,” Gehm said. “I wanted to earn the right to wear the U.S. — my country’s — apparel rather than going around like I’m gonna qualify for the team.
“I got rid of all that stuff from my wardrobe and I got a boatload back.”