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Catch me … if you can

John Hart10-year-old Zachary Welz takes in an afternoon run near his south county home, as his dog, Kasey, gives chase.
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‘m not much of a gambler.

Sure, I’ll drop five bucks whenever the lotto hits 50 million or so, otherwise I like to hold onto my hard-earned cash.

But, if my arm were twisted, I’d be willing to bet someone a soda pop Zachary Welz would be the boy to beat when he and his Pleasant Ridge Elementary School classmates hit the playground for a game of tag.



After all, the fifth-grader proved he was one of the fastest kids in the West last summer.

After a standout spring track and field season, Welz kicked the competition level up a notch when he decided to enter the USA Track and Field’s Pacific Association Meet in June.




There he met, and defeated, some of the best 9-and 10-year olds from both central and northern California.

He set personal records in his 100-meter sprint (14.26 seconds) and long jump (14 feet, 6 1/2 inches) wins and took second in the 200 with a time of at 29.34.

Next up was the USATF Region 14 Meet, where he faced off with the cream of Nevada and California’s 9- and 10-year-old crop. Welz fought through a tender hamstring to take second in the long jump (14-1) and fifth in the 100 (13.95).

But wait, there’s more.

He earned a ticket to the Junior Olympic Meet’s long jump competition where he finished ninth in the nation at 13-10.

Welz’s little legs haven’t stop chugging since.

He posted a 7-0 record in the county’s elementary school cross country season and earned – surprise, surprise – a spot in the Pacific Association Meet.

The 10-year-old took eighth, then posted a career-best 11:44.00 over 1.9 miles to take 11th in the Region 14 Meet a week later.

The top 20 finish secured Welz a place in the Junior Olympic Cross Country Meet in Carrolton, Ga. Dec. 14.

Welz hit the trail and track to the tune of 32 miles in the first week, then 16 miles the second in preparation for his second appearance on the national stage in six months.

The thermometers were stuck in the 30s on race day, while Welz and the rest of the field of 277 lined up for the start.

A combination of the cold and a new race strategy took its toll as Welz posted a time of 13:11.73 to placed 77th.

ODuring the race, I tried a different (strategy) and went out fast. I wasnOt used to it. It didnOt feel right,O he said. OI thought I would do a little bit better. I wanted to get top 20. I guess I need to get a little more training.O

With an impeccable athletic resume, Welz would seem to be the odds-on favorite in any number of the games elementary school kids play at recess, right?

OI get tagged sometimes,O Welz said, smiling and shrugging his shoulders. OBut itOs by mistake. They get lucky sometimes.O

About the soda pop, letOs go two out of three.

ooo

Keith Jiron is a sports reporter with The Union. He can be reached via email at keithj@theunion.com or by phone at 477-4244.


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