Redemption: Elkin’s Millsaps claims 800m title
GREENSBORO — Elkinâ€™s Zach Millsaps completed his final strides in the 800 meters Saturday afternoon at the 1A state track championships, all of his competitors safely in the rearview mirror and his first state title clinched.
Then he kept running.
Millsaps circled back to the infield. He darted past the official scorerâ€™s table and weaved between the medical tent and a hospitality area. He didnâ€™t stop until he found his long-time coach, Dan Merritt.
The two then shared a hearty embrace — one that has been four years in the making.
â€śThis was a goal we set when he was a freshman,â€ť a smiling Merritt said. â€śWhen I first saw him run, I said, ‘My goal is for you to be a state champion by your senior year.’ We worked to get there.
“I said it then because I meant it. And each year he got progressively better and better. Of all the people I have ever coached, he is the hardest worker I have ever had.â€ť
Millsaps was the favorite to win the 800 last spring and nearly got to enjoy the mentor-disciple celebratory hug then. For about 700 meters, he looked like the shoo-in to capture gold. But then the inexplicable happened.
After making his final turn â€“ several strides ahead of his nearest challengers â€“ Millsaps started to wobble. Then he crashed down on the inside of the track.
While he got back up and finished the race in sixth, Millsaps was far from satisfied. And he found a source of motivation for the next 365 days.
â€śIt drove me, I would say, the whole year â€“ to come back and get it this year,â€ť Millsaps said. â€śI thought about it a lot the last couple of days leading up to it. That was scary last year.
The senior, who has signed to run for UNC Pembroke, said he learned a valuable lesson from last yearâ€™s race. In 2011, he had tried to kick too early. This time, he sat back and waited for his chance to make a charge. That happened with about 250 meters left, and third place became a gold medal by the end.
â€śLast year, going into the last 200 with the lead, I donâ€™t know. I thought about it too much. I freaked out a little bit,â€ť Millsaps said. â€śThe patience came into play this year. Last year, I didnâ€™t have any patience. I just wanted to go.â€ť
Millsaps had to make a tough call heading into Saturdayâ€™s meet. He had been the anchor leg on Elkinâ€™s 4×800 relay all season. The Elks won a conference title and then breezed to the region crown last week. The Elks were one of the favorites to win the 4×800 against the state field, but Millsaps opted not to run since the relay came before the 800.
Elkinâ€™s revised 4×800 team of Brandon Welborn, Aaron DeFreitas, Logan Haynes and Cuauthli Lozada finished eighth â€“ strong enough to earn team points and pick up all-state status. Even with Millsaps in the lineup, the Elks probably would have finished third or fourth, Merritt said. The field in the event was that strong this year.
Millsaps competed in the 3,200 meters shortly after his gold medal run. He finished ninth, admitting that he was spent after the 800. Lozada finished seventh to lead the Elks, picking up a few more team points.
â€śI just had fun with the two mile,â€ť Millsaps said.
Elkin had a respectable team showing overall Saturday.
Senior Samantha Dimmette earned bronze in the girls discus. Her best throw was 113 feet, 11 inches. The gold medalist, Hailey Cook from Hendersonville, won with a throw of 117-10.
Dimmette also was seventh in the shotput, another event won by Cook.
Elkin freshman Madeline Carter earned all-state in her first 1A meet appearance for track. Carter was seventh in the 3,200 meters. Mount Airyâ€™s Kirsten Parries won the event.
Sarah Snow placed ninth in the 100 hurdle preliminaries and was 12th in the triple jump. Tre King earned ninth in the high jump.
For complete 1A state meet results, click here: 1A STATE CHAMPIONSHIPS.