LAWRENCE — Like most student-athletes at Kansas University, senior distance runner Zach Zarda is plugged into social networks.
In fact, before anyone could tell Zarda that he received the Big 12 Conference’s highest academic honor, the Dr. Gerald Lage award, he stumbled upon a tweet from Kansas Athletics, opened up the link on his phone and discovered that he had been selected for the prestigious award.
One of the better distance runners in Maranatha Academy history and now putting together a successful career at Kansas, Zarda hopes to continue his ambitions of making the national meets.
But what’s helped Zarda more than anything is having his family support so close, while also building relationships with the track and field commnity in Lawrence.
“I knew I was going to be in a tough collegiate career. Trying to stay focused on academics as well as athletics is a tough thing to do, and family really helped me with that,” Zarda said.
In order to qualify for the award, Big 12 athletes must complete 100 hours of college credit while maintaining a cumulative 3.80 grade-point average. Two other athletes from Kansas qualified for the award; senior swimmer Sarah Hettenback and senior quarterback Quinn Mecham.
A highly competitive academic and athletic setting, Maranatha proved to prepare Zarda for the grind of college.
“Growing up it was a huge focus of my family. My parents never pressured me or anything like that to get good grades, but there’s always that expectation and they wanted me to be the best that I could be,” Zarda said.