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Norwood - Local Town Pages

Jacob Zhang; Hurdling His Way To Success

By Christopher Tremblay
Upon entering Norwood High School, then freshman Jacob Zhang wanted to be a part of the experience and was hoping to find something that he could take part in over his four years while expanding his horizons. Eventually, he decided on cross country, but that sport was short lived.
“My freshman year, I tried croxss country and found out that I wasn’t really skilled in long distance running,” Zhang said. “I figured the next step would be to try out some shorter distances and I really enjoyed that much better. In cross country, you’re out there on your own, in track, your teammates are cheering you on during your event.”
As a first-year track athlete, Zhang felt right at home in the 55 meter and 300 meter dashes during the indoor season; both events allowed him to improve his times as he got accustomed to the events.  While track was much more to his liking, Zhang gave cross country one more chance during his sophomore year, and with a best time of 21 minutes in the 5K event, he decided not to return in his junior season.
“I gave cross country another try, but it just wasn’t for me, so I decided to stick with the shorter distance running during the track seasons,” Zhang said. “Track was much more enjoyable, and my talent seemed to compliment it much better.”
Norwood Boys Track Coach Matt Curran saw something in the short distance runner and suggested he try running the hurdles. 
“As a cross country runner, he was not thrilled with the long distance running,” Curran said. “So, after running his sophomore season he decided that it wasn’t for him and fully concentrated on track. That season, I asked him to considered the hurdles; it took him a year, but by his junior season things juts popped for him and he was named to the All-Star Team in the event.”
At first Zhang was apprehensive about the new event, but realizing that Norwood did not have a huge presence in the hurdling events, he shook off his doubts and gave the event his all.
“Coach Curran came to me to give it a try,” Zhang said. “I was a little nervous to give it a try at first, but over time I started to believe in myself and improve my techniques. Originally, I could get myself over the hurdle; it was mental fear that I was either going to get hurt or knock it down so I’d run right up to the hurdle and instead of jumping over it I would just stop.”
Curran knew that Zhang had the ability within him, so he began working with him on his technique while also giving him some exercises to strengthen his core. Over time, Zhang would eventually overcome his fear, and as a junior he would run the hurdles during the indoor season at the Division 3 Sectionals where he would place fifth with a time of 8.26 seconds.

As a senior this year, Zhand continued to run the 55-meter hurdles and the 55 meter dash during the indoor season and is looking to take part in the 200 meter dash, the 110 meter hurdles, and being a part of the 4x100 relay this spring.
As he gets ready for the outdoor track season, the Mustang senior is hoping that he can continue to improve his hurdle times enough to etch his name in the Norwood record books.
“My goal this season is to improve my hurdle times and set the [110-meter hurdle)] school record,” Zhang said. “The record is 7.8 seconds, and I am currently running a best 8.26. If I continue to work hard at practice while doing my exercises that the coach taught me, I believe that I’ll have the knowledge and the ability to do it.”
In addition to the hurdles, Curran would like to see Zhang continue to take part in the long jump, where he has a best leap of 19 feet.
“These events require skill to participate in and Jacob seems to have found his,” the Mustang Coach said. “I am looking forward to him having a really good spring and am excited to see what he can accomplish.”
Putting his name in the Norwood High School record books would be an honor, but Zhang, who says running is just a hobby, is really just looking forward to having a good year with his teammates and helping Norwood win on the track.