Mason’s Wills just a sophomore, but still Ohio’s top boys CC runner

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Mason’s Zach Mills won his second state title. He also won the 3,200 at the 2008 state track meet. (Photo by Nick Falzerano)

Mason’s Zach Wills is just entering the second half of his sophomore year, but he is already being mentioned as possibly one of the greats to ever run cross country and track in Ohio.

“As long as he stays healthy, he has the potential to be one of the best in the country,” Mason coach Tom Rapp said.


Mason’s Zach Wills is just entering the second half of his sophomore year, but he is already being mentioned as possibly one of the greats to ever run cross country and track in Ohio.

“As long as he stays healthy, he has the potential to be one of the best in the country,” Mason coach Tom Rapp said.

Despite already winning a state title in each sport, Wills is reluctant to discuss individual accolades. It’s clear – he’d rather discuss his teammates.

Wills, who won the Division I state cross country championship in November, is the Ohio High Magazine/Huntington Bank male cross country runner of the year.

In many ways, the 16-year-old (turns 17 on Jan. 1) is a typical teen-ager who enjoys video games, movies and is not afraid to laugh at himself either. But, as a competitor, he is wise beyond his years.

“I just take (the attention) as a normal, everyday person would,” said Wills, whose sister Katie is a former Mason softball standout now at Ashland University. “I don’t act like I am going to boast around about it. It’s just an opportunity to show people what I am about. I am not just a state champion, but a good Christian also.”

Wills is involved with Athletes in Action and the Grace Chapel Youth Ministry in Mason.

On his Web site, zacharywills.com, he lists a Bible verse from Philippians: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.”

Rapp says it’s no surprise Wills is quick to recognize Mason’s Division I state title as the most important accomplishment this past fall.

“The happiest I’ve ever seen him was not when he won the state individual cross country title, but a few minutes later when it was announced that our team had won the state title,” Rapp said. “He’s obviously a team player.”

Rapp said Wills doesn’t run the significant miles when he trains like his peers, but he is able to maximize the most when he does compete.

“Physically, he is an aerobic machine,” Rapp said. “Basically, his body transports oxygen to the muscles and processes it far more efficiently than most.”

Mason’s first cross country team title came in a strong performance at Scioto Downs Nov. 1. The Comets defeated second place Hilliard Davidson by a 20-point margin as Wills won his individual title in 15:15.66. Wills said he and the team focused on place; he won by almost 14 seconds from a field of 144 competitors.

“This last couple of weeks has really hit how awesome (the state meet) was,” Wills said the day after Thanksgiving. “Not very many people have gone to the state championship. Winning team and individual titles is huge, but it’s not only the individual title but the team title was the most important to me.”

The Comets certainly had plenty of talent returning going into the season. Mason, which returned six runners, was favored early in the fall after it finished 10th in the Division I state meet in 2007.

That experience helped as the Comets won five invitationals along with district, regional and state titles. The Greater Miami Conference meet (in which Wills did not participate) was the only time Mason didn’t win.

“The (state) championship was obviously a great moment for all of us – the culmination of literally thousands of miles of running,” Rapp said.

The running won’t stop anytime soon for Wills, who will be one of the state’s top returning distance runners in track once the spring arrives. Although he planned to take a break during the winter, Wills is looking forward to the spring.

Wills, who won the 3,200-meter title at Ohio State last spring, said he is considering the possibility of competing in the 1,600, 3,200 and 3,200 relay. The carryover effect from the Comets’ state cross country title will help in track and field.

“I think it will be really positive,” Wills said. “It established some people to step up and brought a lot of confidence in our runners.”

Opposing teams have taken notice of the Comets’ ability to perform well in various meets. With two years left in his high school career, Wills has been the catalyst for Mason.

“Zach is hard charger who is very confident in his ability to win,” West Chester Lakota West coach Craig Myers said. “He makes everyone around him in a race run better.”

That ability has certainly helped Wills catch the eye of several colleges. Wills said he has received letters from the likes of Baylor, Duke and Ohio State among others.
It’s still very early in the recruiting process, but Wills said he would definitely like a school that fits him academically and athletically.

He said he plans to study a field within science, possibly biology or Pre-Med.

“Zach is an A student, Rapp said, “with an occasional B thrown in there.”

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