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Zallow, Fesemyer delay dreams of Games

Submitted photo Former John F. Kennedy High School and Youngstown State University standout Chad Zallow, center, won the 60-meter hurdles at the Knights of Columbus Indoor Games in Canada. Tuesday, his Olympic dreams of competing in the 2020 Tokyo Games have been halted for the meantime as the event has been moved to 2021.

The outside air, a refreshing feeling on the human body.

A walk, run or even jog.

Chad Zallow felt it for the brief moments, as we all have, throughout this coronavirus pandemic during which Gov. Mike DeWine has implemented a stay-at-home order.

Zallow dazzled crowds (remember those?) as he grazed 39-inch hurdles to win after win. State championships followed throughout his career at John F. Kennedy High School.

The implements down the 60- and 110-meter straightaway of an all-weather surface gave more than a bounce to Zallow. Three inches more on each hurdle never bothered the JFK graduate at nearby Youngstown State University, becoming the most decorated athlete in that school’s history.

Submitted photo Southeast High School graduate and current University of Illinois athlete Jenna Fesemyer competes in last year’s Chicago Marathon. Fesemyer had her sights set on the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics. Now, she’s working toward 2021 after the games were postponed.

He was focused on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, qualifying in the 110 hurdles. Tuesday, that dream was delayed as the summer games are postponed until 2021.

As for that brief respite of outside time, some have used PVC pipe to construct makeshift hurdles. Zallow had a chuckle at the notion, but said it wasn’t a bad idea.

“People are doing whatever they can to try to get some work in,” he said. “Definitely crazy times. A lot of athletes are struggling in every sport, pretty much.”

Southeast High School graduate Jenna Fesemyer sees more of the inside of her house these days. Normally, she’d be surrounded by her teammates at the University of Illinois, challenging one another. Fesemyer was the face of seated athletics for the Ohio High School Athletic Association, winning many state championships.

That wasn’t enough for her as she wanted to challenge herself at The University of Illinois Adapted Varsity Athletics Program, one of the few in the United States.

The 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo were her goal. Distance is her focus, qualifying in the 1500- or 3000-meter races or marathon.

An email Tuesday morning confirmed what she suspected. Her goal, just like Zallow’s, is delayed until 2021.

She’s going back to an off-season mode, increasing her volume and physical mechanics. Fesemyer is using bike rollers in her house, trying to simulate hills — preparing for a marathon this summer. She’s competed in the Chicago Marathon, which is scheduled for October 11. Increasing muscle mass is part of the process.

“I think this time is a huge mental game for everybody,” Fesemyer said. “For four years, we had in our minds that we were training for Tokyo 2020. I think a lot of athletes are taken aback by the decision to postpone the games, and of course, we respect it as well.

“Right now, a lot of it is keeping that mentality up. We’re still training for the Paralympics here, but our timeline looks a little bit different. Right now, I’m not looking to gain something physically during this process, but I am working on that mindset of, ‘We’re not done yet. We need to keep on putting in some good work.’ Nothing really changes except we have an extended offseason, and we’re training for our games. The timeline looks a little bit different, that’s all. It’s all mental for us over here.”

Zallow is taking some time off to regroup at this point, but will stay in shape for his moment — the 2021 Olympic Trials.

He’s at home weight-lifting with squats, power cleans and Olympic lifts, and works for Waterstone Mortgage remotely.

He’ll continue training at YSU and keep his dream alive in this area whenever facilities open again.

Zallow ran during the indoor season and was about to compete in a few outdoor meets before COVID-19 started to spread throughout the nation.

“As of now, I thought my training was going pretty well with my first professional season,” he said. “I thought I had everything I needed around here to succeed well. I’m going to give it a try around here for now. I’ve always felt if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.

“Things were going good indoor. Training was going good outdoor until things got derailed. Definitely going to stay around here and I’ll give it a shot. I’m already looking forward to next year if things do get canceled this year.”

Fesemyer had the support of her Illinois teammates every day, which would’ve carried her toward the Paralympics — across the Pacific Ocean to Tokyo.

No human contact. More questions than answers. Only encouragement from afar remains.

“Right now, it’s been a solo game, a very solo journey of training on my own, every day,” Fesemyer said. “I think it’s been a gift in a fact that it’s not helping me take for granted the gift of having a team — a such a large team. After this is all said and done, we’ll be able to get together and work together better and encourage each other better as well.”

Zallow is walking along his path, either indoors or outdoors, thinking. His focus is on the future, it always is in the recesses of his thoughts.

“I’m always thinking about track, what I can do to get better and everything like that,” he said. “My mind is always racing. I’m looking forward to the next opportunity.”