BY MELANIE BUCK –
Zach Jewell graduated on Sunday, May 15, 2016, making history as the most decorated athlete to ever grace the halls of Mena High School. A standout track athlete, Jewell has had a whirlwind season and ended it with the sweetest note. The day before graduation, Jewell claimed victory in not one, but three events at the coveted Meet of Champions held in Russellville, Arkansas.
In the regular season of track and field, he placed first in every event he entered and was awarded High Point Individual awards at every meet. It came as no surprise when he took the Class 4A state competition by storm and placed first in the 100 meter dash, 200 meter dash, and Long Jump, qualifying him for the Meet of Champions where he would compete against the first place qualifiers from all state classifications. He also qualified in the triple jump because of his impressive distance in the event.
Jewell traveled to Russellville on Saturday, May 14, surrounded by his family, to compete in his last high school competition. “At first, I was kind of nervous, but once I got there, it was just a regular track meet, until the end. It’s one of those things that you really don’t realize what you’ve done until an hour after you’ve done it and then you know you’ve done something really special,” said Jewell.
His first event of the day was triple jump, where he placed fifth, with a personal best jump of 44 ft. 8 in. “It made me feel like it was going to be a good day and that more good things were going to happen.”
The long jump was his second event of the day. “I couldn’t find the board correctly,” he explained. “I was a foot or so behind it and by the time I found it, I was already tired.” However, the distance on his fourth jump could not be trumped and with a 22 ft. 10 ¾ in. long jump, he claimed his first victory of the day. His personal best in the event occurred at the 2016 Waldron Track Meet in April, with a jump of 23’5”. He also won the long jump in the 2015 Meet of Champions.
With a personal best of 10.69 seconds in the 100 meter dash, Jewell has been known as the fastest boy in the state all year. He said he was “slow on the start but recovered quick and was able to still run a fast time.” He won that event with a 10.7 second sprint. He said following the long jump he was muggy and tired but winning the 100 meter dash gave him a renewed spirit. “I had a lot more energy,” he laughed.
For his final event of the day, he faced the 200 meter dash. “I was feeling really good, not nervous at all. I knew I just had to run my race.” And that he did. He not only claimed victory, he ran a personal best in 21.37 seconds. “I wasn’t really expecting to run that fast of a 200. At first, I was tired and didn’t know what to think and then it slowly started hitting me how fast I ran. The more time that went by, the more I realized what I had done.”
Although they are still waiting to hear if there has ever been an athlete place first in three events at the Meet of Champions, Jewell said last year the most events won by an individual was two.
As for being the most decorated athlete to ever graduate Mena High School, Jewell said, “I still really don’t know what to think about it. It feels really good knowing it, but it just hasn’t hit me yet. I’m sure it will soon. I was very surprised when Mr. Torix announced it. It felt really good being recognized in front of half of Polk County.”
Jewell gave credit to his support system who cheers him on from near and far. “My dad, mom, brothers, and my girlfriend, are my main support system. But I do get support from my whole family and really, all of Mena. I hear a lot about how proud people are of me and even though they can’t support me in person, they are still supporting me. That makes me feel good because it makes me want to try harder knowing there are people that support me.”
As for his favorite accomplishment thus far, Jewell said he is most proud of the Meet of Champs. “It’s the best of the best and being able to place first in three events there is pretty amazing.”
Jewell has also been invited to the Arkansas Track and Field Hall of Fame Banquet on June 3rd in Little Rock where he will be honored for all of his hard work. He is one of only five athletes in the state that were invited, something he considers a high honor.
His next step will be entering college at the University of Central Arkansas in the fall, where he received a track and academic scholarship, and he is very excited to get there. “Those coaches will really help me out. I feel like they will be able to help me excel in what I’m doing.”