For West Valley senior Zechariah Herford, speed runs in his genes.
There was Martin Herford Jr. before him. And the oldest sister, Brittiny, before him.
And before all the siblings there was Karen Shines Herford, the matriarch of the family speed.
Back in the mid 1980s, Karen helped Rogers win a state championship. In fact, Shines was one of four girls on the team that captured the 3A state title in 1986 including titles in the 400- and 800-meter relays. She was a 100 and 200 state champ in 1987.
It’s a lot to live up to but Zechariah is doing his part.
Two years ago, he put the Herford name alongside that of his sister on WV’s record board in the gym. Brittiny has owned the girls’ record in the 100 (12.0) since 2007.
This spring Zechariah has eclipsed his record four times, most recently clocking 10.62 in the 100 at district.
That gave him the overall state best for seemingly about 10.62 seconds. Emmanuel Wells of Rainier Beach turned in a 10.54, which was converted from a hand held time.
Technically, Herford, a three-year starter in football, has the fastest electronic time. Nonetheless, Herford doesn’t want 10.62 to be his final best.
“My goal is 10.4 and I’m hoping to go faster,” he said.
Should he go 10.4, it would put him second all-time in the state. Ja’Warren Hooker of Ellensburg (10.27) is the fastest all time.
Herford heads to the 2A state meet at Mount Tahoma High School in Tacoma with the highest goals possible. He wants to capture a title in the 100 and assist the 400 and 1,600 relays to victory as well. And just as important he hopes the Eagles take home a team title. WV was second last spring.
WV coach Vic Wallace always knew Herford had the ability to zip around the track.
“I first noticed him as a freshman during football,” Wallace said. “We were doing a drill and I noticed his reaction time. I had a side view and the thing I noticed was his drive phase in a tackle drill. It was unreal for a freshman. I knew he could use that in track.”
Sprinting is more than trying to be the first to the finish line. Those who know appreciate the hard work that is manifested in no wasted motions – from the start in the blocks to running through the finish line.
And there’s the work off the track. Sprinting also requires strength.
“He hadn’t conquered the strength piece,” Wallace said. “You can never have enough strength. He put the time in last summer and in winter conditioning.”
And Herford has reaped what he sewed this spring.
“The main difference between my freshman year and now is my mindset,” Herford said. “My freshman year I was running to run. This year and last year I have a goal, a purpose to running.”
Wallace believes to be a good short distance sprinter athletes must train as quarter milers.
“If you run a good 400 time, you can run fantastic shorter sprints,” Wallace said. “Zech is every bit of a 49-flat 400 runner or better. I told him that every time he runs a good leg on the (1,600 relay), he’ll notice his sprint times drop.”
They did four times this season.
There’s nothing like tangible evidence for an athlete to soak up his coach’s counsel.
“The thing I enjoy about Zech and all the athletes I coach is they never give me any push back,” Wallace said. “We can have open conversations. They have a say in things. He’s very coachable, very open minded.”
Watching Herford sprint, especially in the 100, is an emotional experience for Wallace.
“I get goose bumps when I talk about it,” Wallace said. “He’s technically sound. He’s really overcome a lot of things this year that have kept him from running great times. And I don’t think he’s done.”
Wallace went on to talk about efficiency.
“When you get to the point he’s at, you truly look for the small things – from head to toe,” Wallace said. “Eye level is very important. He should have his chin down and eyes looking through his finish point.”
That’s an area Herford has admittedly struggled. But he’s made measurable strides.
“Once your chin goes up you become an over strider,” Wallace said. “That used to happen all the time with him. He was real rigid – like he fought it. Now he’s aggressive yet efficient and graceful. It’s unreal to watch.”
Herford teamed with Tevin Duke, Caleb Simpson and Jake Jordan for 42.40 in the 400 relay at the Pasco Invite. It stood as the fastest time overall in the state until recently.
That same foursome will likely team up in the 1,600 relay at state.
“They’re monsters. They’ll do whatever it takes to be successful,” Wallace said. “I’ve got two others who are just as good as them.”
Wallace said Herford has discovered another important aspect to his life – getting things done in the classroom.
Herford most likely will start his collegiate career at least for a season at a community college because he wants to make as smooth of an adjustment academically to college as possible.
“The responsibility piece is important,” Wallace said. “I didn’t discover it until college. I wasn’t focused. I lived for athletics. I had to figure it out too.”
Herford will graduate next week on a good note, having his best academic year to date.
“I want to take running as far as I can take it,” he said.
Herford gives Wallace a lot of praise.
“I don’t think I’d be running without him,” Herford said.