Athlete of the Year: Zach Shinnick, Senior, Damien
All that really mattered to Zach Shinnick was the final race of the high school track and field season.
The Damien senior was the clear favorite to win a CIF State 400-meter championship.
But he had to get there first, and that was the problem. Shinnick was on crutches early in the season because of a badly sprained ankle. He re-injured it in another early season meet.
But the USC-bound athlete was ready to go by the time the postseason rolled around and he put an exclamation point on the season when he won the CIF State championship.
“It’s a great feeling to come out and win,” Shinnick said after winning the state title. “I’m really happy with my performance and happy I’ve come this far.”
The San Gabriel Valley Tribune Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year raced to an undefeated season. He missed the Arcadia Invitational and the San Gabriel Valley Championships, although he ran a leg of the 4×400 relay in that meet. His first major meet was one he had to do well; the Baseline League finals. He won the title to get to postseason competition.
He broke his own school record in the CIF Southern Section Division 3 final with a 46.93-second run, a record he held since his sophomore season when he went 47.19.
He won the CIF-SS Masters Meet title (46.38) to earn the top seed for state.
He didn’t disappoint in Clovis, either. He eased up in getting the top seed in the preliminary meet and then ran a blistering 46.12 to win the title.
“My workouts have been going good and I thought I could pull it off,” he said.
He is the first San Gabriel Valley-area boys athlete to win a state title since 2012 when Damien’s Jarrett Gonzalez won the 300 hurdles. The last San Gabriel Valley-area athlete to win the 400 was Muir’s Obea Moore in 1996.
It was his first state appearance since his sophomore year, when he finished third.
Coach of the Year: Michael Williams, Damien
The Damien High School boys track and field team has been a consistent contender in postseason competition.
The Spartans were again among the Top 10, finishing seventh in CIF Southern Section Division 3 competition.
Zach Shinnick won CIF-SS and CIF State titles in the 400 meters and Thomas Prata reached the CIF-SS Masters Meet in the pole vault. Prata finished third in the division.
Coach Michael Williams earned San Gabriel Valley Boys Track and Field Coach of the Year honors with the effort.
It was more than Shinnick and Prata that got the Spartans to seventh. Senior Joshua Bryan was fifth in the division’s 100 final and senior Hunter Walker was sixth. The 4×400 relay team finished fourth and the 4×100 relay team finished sixth.