Senior Dunn makes move for postseason success

In+one+of+his+first+races+back+after+an+extended+illness%2C+Zack+Dun+runs+with+the+pack+in+the+Highland+Invitational.+

Tom DiGrispino

In one of his first races back after an extended illness, Zack Dun runs with the pack in the Highland Invitational.

Colin Rogers, Staff Writer

Senior Zack Dunn wasn’t always a runner when he was younger. He played different sports, and through these other sports, he discovered his success in running.

“I’ve always played sports like baseball and wrestling, and we would run for a long time, so I always used running to get better at wrestling and baseball,” Dunn said.  “I was better at running than those sports, so I just knew I could probably be a little more successful in running.”

Dunn feels a sense of accomplishment when he runs. 

“Let’s say I set a goal and I accomplish it,” he said. “I feel like I achieved a sense of being a better version of myself … I sort of know that I am getting better at something.

“Say I have a really hard run, a 12-mile run. It sucks during it, but towards the end it I feel like I’ve accomplished something.”

When Dunn runs, he may feel anxious, but he still has fun and feels exhilarated.

“I am pretty anxious, but more so excited, because I feel like I trained hard to get to that point,” he said. “I also race with a lot of my friends, so I think there is also an aspect of it being fun like having a competition with your friends.

“I think at the point where I am running, I really care about just having fun. I realized that, if I have fun and am not stressing about it, I am actually going to do better.”

Dunn follows the same routine every time before he competes making sure he has the carbs he needs for his upcoming meet.

“After school I go home and eat dinner, which most of the time is pasta just because I’ve always eaten pasta before a race, drink a lot of water and in, all honesty, I try not to think about the race,” he said.

“I train for my race, [and] I am pretty confident that my training is going to pay off. I’m not nervous about racing anymore. I found that if I think about it too much I am going to stress and not do as well.” 

Unfortunately, Dunn missed part of his Cross-Country season this year due to illness. But despite this setback, he made a strong comeback to finish fourth in Saturday’s Sectional competition, and pushed forward to finish third in Regionals to move on to State.

“The way the coach trained me to come back is each week I would go up 5-10%,” he said. “So my first week back I trained at 70 percent everything and I actually went by my heart rate… So the first week back I was at 70 percent, second week back I was at 80%, this week I’ve been at 90-95%. I think for Sectionals I will be able to go back to 100 percent.

“I’m still a little nervous, not going to lie, but it’s a process. Me and my coach communicate. If I’m feeling like crap I tell him… and he says, ‘You don’t need to do it.’ It is better to be safe than sorry.”

One of Dunn’s most memorable moments during his athletic career here at Merrillville High School was competing at State last year.

“Even though my race didn’t go well… It was more knowing that I got there and knowing that I am one of the top runners in the state,” Dunn said. “[I] felt like that was pretty cool because I knew a lot of people who didn’t go to State and who trained their whole life to go to State, and they didn’t make it. So for me it was like I was there, and I hit a level I was proud of.”

In college, Dunn plans on majoring in personal training and either minoring or double majoring in automotive engineering. He also plans on running and reaching his goal to become one of the elite by running a 4-minute or better mile.

“I feel like there are levels to running,” he said. “Once you run under 4 minutes in a mile, you are at the elite level.”

Dunn has some advice to anyone wanting to join track or cross country.

“One, listen to Coach [Hoffman]. He knows what he is doing, but above all else is have fun. There were times where I felt there was a lot of pressure on me and I found running not fun and people automatically think because I’m good I like it. And that’s not true,” Dunn said.

“Just have fun with it because if you’re not having fun you’re not going to want to do it and you won’t perform as you should. If you have teammates you are having fun with, then that’s going to make the running go by easier.”

As Dunn gets back to full strength he is looking to eliminate the stress and just go back to what he always does and have fun. 

“It was a lot of pressure to be a top runner. And now I kind of realize that I shouldn’t have pressure on me because I just need to do what I’ve always done, run,” Dunn said.