Nearly a year has passed since Center Grove sprinter Zach Hart experienced an inadvertent spring in his step during competition.
“I pulled my right hamstring last April at the North Central Invitational. I was in the 100-meter final and I got about 30 meters into it and I just wasn’t doing too well. It didn’t feel like something pulled, it felt like there was a bomb that went off in my leg,” Hart said.
“I jumped in the air and bounced on one leg to the finish line. I knew immediately it was bad.”
This is how bad — Hart didn’t take part in Wednesday’s season-opening dual meet against visiting Bloomington South.
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Missing the conclusion of one track season and the dawn of another wasn’t necessarily what the 6-foot, 185-pound senior envisioned.
Despite using a successful football season (43 tackles, 22 pass break-ups and three interceptions as a starting cornerback) to bridge his track disappointments, Hart is a track-first kind of athlete.
Missing any event, be it dual meet, invitational or postseason, tends to sting.
“Any athletic team or program is bigger than the individual. That being said, it would be quite difficult for our 1,600-meter relay team to go after a state championship we are capable of winning without Zach,” Trojans track and football coach Eric Moore said.
“That along with the individual points Zach will accumulate as a track meet goes on.”
Hart is convinced last season’s 1,600 relay of Evan Tandy, himself, Zak Smith and Justin Veteto would have won state.
His goal now is to be back in time to possibly anchor this year’s foursome (the others being Smith, Jackson Hohlt and either Quinton Stirsman or Conner Steeb) to the top of the award’s podium at the State Finals in June.
Earlier this week, Hart sat down with the Daily Journal for a Q&A:
Q: As athletically active as you are, did you ever fear something like a hamstring injury could happen to you?
A: No, because I hadn’t had any pain in it whatsoever. It was all in my calf and in my lower back. I hadn’t thought about my hamstring at all and had always gotten my calf stretched out or my back worked on. The next thing you know I’m on the ground.
Q: Did you have any hamstring issues prior to that in your life?
A: I pulled my left hamstring in eighth grade making a cut in football.
Q: When did you recently aggravate the injury?
A: Back in February. I had just started really, really ramping up on my work starting at the end of January. I got into February, and it started getting painful and it was getting worse.
Q: With track season having started Wednesday, how disappointing is this for you as one of the team’s senior leaders?
A: Horrendously. Last year we had the 4-by-400 … I hate to say it was locked up, but it was locked up. If I stay healthy, we’re state champions. I have been running some, but as far as practice goes I can only go so far before the pain starts to really induce itself.
I know I want to run the 4-by-400 in the Ben Davis meet (April 18). As far as getting back to running individual races I’m not certain. I know at the end of the day if I’m healthy in terms of state, and I believe I will because I’m being cautious and being careful, I know for a fact I’ll be anchoring the 4-by-400.
Q: What have you been doing since February to rehabilitate your hamstring injury?
A: I’m not really sure what the treatment is called (myofascial release), but they pull apart the skin layers from the muscle and it rips up all the abrasions. Just as much treatment as I can get. Stretching, icing. Just the normal stuff, I guess.
Q: Is the time required to properly heal a hamstring injury the most frustrating part?
A: That and you kind of question yourself about it all because it’s not visible. You’re like, “Is this mental or is this real?” and you’re trying to push through it and it gets worse, and you’re like, “No, it’s real.” But no one else can see it, so you have to get past other people doubting or questioning you and know you know your own pain.
Q: Do you worry you’ll think about this injury even when you’re back healthy again?
A: I’ll admit I was, slightly. But once you get running, if it does it does. You can’t control that. You just start running and hope for the best.
THE HART FILE
Name: Zach Hart
Family: Parents, Brian and Michelle; sister, Kelsey, 22
Favorite TV show: “Suits”
Favorite food: Lasagna
Favorite athlete: Ben Roethlisberger
Favorite team: Pittsburgh Steelers