Prairie's Peter Zalk is All-Region boys track and field athlete

Athlete wins a championship, but the title is secondary to his faith

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter

Published:

 

Peter Zalk's focus on the state track and field meet started long before the state track and field meet.

"I would go into every race thinking it was the state race," said Zalk, a junior who represents Prairie. "I'd been training for this the whole season."

Envisioning a title is one thing.

Rest of All-Region team

Grayson Anderson, sr., Camas: 4A state high jump runner-up, district 110-meter hurdles champ.

Marcus Gaylor, jr., Columbia River: Third in 100 at 3A state; 4th in 200 at state.

Colby Gilbert, sr., Skyview: Third in 3,200 at 4A state; 4A GSHL track athlete of year.

Luke Middlestadt, jr., Prairie: Fifth at 3A state in pole vault, twice cleared 14 feet.

Ben Nelson, sr., King’s Way Christian: 1A state triple jump champ; district long jump champ.

Alex Olson, sr., Ridgefield: County leader in discus; 2A GSHL runner-up in shot put, discus.

James Phillips, jr., Prairie: 3rd at 3A state in 300 hurdles, 4th in long jump, 5th in 110 hurdles.

Devin Scott, jr., Heritage: 3rd at 4A state in triple jump; 4A GSHL field athlete of year.

Ryan Tonder, sr., Mountain View: 4th at 3A state in discus.

Kevin Washington, sr., Skyview: 7th at 4A state in 200; 4A GSHL 200 champ, 100 runner-up.

Eli Whitmire, Woodland: 1A state long jump runner-up; part of runner-up 400 relay team.

Zalk, though, went out and accomplished the feat, winning the 110-meter high hurdles last month at the Class 3A state meet. He also tied for fifth in the pole vault, while the Prairie team took home a third-place trophy.

For his efforts, Zalk is The Columbian's All-Region boys track and field athlete of the year.

A first-place medal. The cheers from the crowd. The post-season honors. Zalk appreciates all of those things, but they do not drive him toward excellence.

"People ask me, 'How does it feel to be a state champion?' I'm not out here for the title. I'm out here to glorify God.

"A lot of people look at track as a sport. I view it as a platform to share the gospel, and my platform to share my faith."

Zalk also shares his athletic ability with his teammates. A student at CAM Academy in Battle Ground, he is in Running Start at Clark College and competes for Prairie.

The Falcons won league, district, bi-district and then got that all-important trophy from the state meet.

"It meant so much to our seniors," Zalk said. Then, with a smile, he added, "It's crazy. When you actually do what your coaches tell you to do, things really do happen."

For Zalk, that meant winning the hurdles title in 14.97 seconds.

He told his parents: "You drove three hours to watch me run less than 15 seconds. I love my parents. They're crazy."

Zalk said as a senior, he wants to defend his title, win the pole vault, and place in the 300 hurdles.

It's no wonder then, that beyond high school Zalk wants to become a decathlete.

Zalk has promised to remain focused on his goals, all while remembering the most important thing in his life.

It's not about state championships.

Season highlights

• He was voted by the coaches as the field athlete of the year in the Class 3A Greater St. Helens League. That was for his pole vault abilities. Then he won a track event for his state title.

• Won the 3A state championship in the 110 high hurdles, finishing in a time of 14.97 seconds.

• Tied for fifth in the state pole vault competition, improving from his 12th-place finish in 2012.

• Helped his team to a third-place finish at state.

More about Peter

Favorite movie: “Lord of the Rings.” “My oldest brother (Nick) and I have always been complete nerds.”

Favorite book: “The Hobbit.” That nerd trend continuing?

Favorite subject: American Sign Language. “I want to be an interpreter. My mom has been an interpreter for 35 years.”

Next year and beyond

• He wants to defend his state title in the 110 hurdles, plus win the pole vault, place in the 300 hurdles, and help his 400 relay team place at state. Beyond high school, he is starting to train to become a decathlete.

Quotable

“I love doing it, and I’m good at it, but that’s not why I’m on the track.” — Peter Zalk, State champion hurdler, explaining that while he loves competing, he does it for his faith, not for his own glory.