Student Overcomes Adversity to Win First Place in Multiple Marathons
Department of Industrial and Engineering Technology
Zach Young of Jackson, Mo., who is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in technology management with an emphasis in computer and multimedia graphics from Southeast Missouri State University, won first place in the wheelchair division of the annual Cape Girardeau City of Roses half marathon.
“Winning a race is certainly always a goal of mine. However, I race because I really enjoy the sport and competition no matter if I finish in first or last,” Zach says.
The half marathon course went on county roads on the east side of Cape Girardeau for 13.1 miles that included several hills. He says he finished the half marathon in 73 minutes, about three minutes sooner than the second-place winner, John Payne of Memphis. He says it was “pretty good time for that hilly course.”
“I prepared for this race by running the course and doing hill repeats on the hills around Jackson and Cape Girardeau.
“The course was both challenging and fast this year for a wheelchair racer. The most challenging parts of the course were miles four through eight, which included steep hill climbs that were one after another,” Zach says.
It was the first year the City of Roses half marathon had a wheelchair division.
“I competed in the race because it is one of the largest local races around, the only half-marathon we have in Cape Girardeau. I also feel it is important to promote adaptive sports within this region because there are many people living with disabilities that have no outlet,” he said.
He will also compete soon in the Howlin Half Ironman Distance Triathlon at the Trail of Tears State Park, which will involve a 1.2 mile swim, a 56-mile bike ride and a 13.1 mile run.
He has also won first place in the wheelchair division and fifth place overall in the GO! St. Louis marathon.
“What went through my mind during the race was how I had never noticed how hilly St. Louis was until I wheeled 26.2 miles through it,” Zach said. “That race was both mentally and physically exhausting, but was also a great experience. I have been a paratriathlete for over two years now, so training for a marathon distance race did not take a whole lot of adjustment to my training schedule. It just took consistently adding more miles to my training for several months while balancing the school work that I had during that time.”
After he competed in the GO! Marathon, he later finished in sixth place at the USA Paratriathlon National Championships in Austin, Texas, and then in first place at the USA Paratriathlon Regional Championships in Omaha, Neb.
“These two races really helped me determine where I am at compared to other elite paratriathletes in the nation,” he said.
His dream is to compete for the US in the sport of triathlon in the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Zach lost the use of his legs in 2005 after he was involved in a motorcycle accident on his way home from work. It took him a couple of years to adjust to being in a wheelchair, and then he decided to further his education so he applied to Southeast, where he began to lift weights between classes. Then he began hand cycling, which is a three-wheeled bike that’s propelled by using one’s arms. In 2011, he was challenged to compete in his first triathlon by a family member.
When he’s not competing, he likes to swim, run and bike with other athletes in the area. At Southeast, he enjoys watching the Redhawks play football.
“My favorite moments at Southeast were during my freshmen year in 2010 when the Redhawks football team was on a roll. It was awesome being a fan watching the home games with so much community, alumni, faculty and student support. Those are fond memories of mine that I hope to experience again this football season. Go Redhawks!” He said.
As a non-traditional student at Southeast, Zach says the professors and staff at Southeast have helped him adjust as well, making the transition easier for him by working with him and helping motivate him to compete in the triathlons.
“My faith is also very important to me. It has helped me through some of the roughest times that life has thrown at me and continues to be the source of my strength to get me where I am going,” Zach says.
To Southeast students, he offers this advice, “I was a non-traditional student when I started at Southeast. My advice would be to not let a title determine your outcome or limit your ability of achieving great things here at Southeast.”