All about pacing for JFK’s Watt

YOUNGSTOWN – For Zach Watt, it’s all about perspective.

The John F. Kennedy senior 400-meter runner knows the one lap around the track consists of more than an all-out effort – going as fast as humanly possible.

“Last year, I was like, ‘Get out fast.’ This year, I’m looking to pace myself more for the end of the race,” said Watt, whose Eagles team was practicing at Youngstown State University’ Watson and Tressel Training Site.

Enter first-year Kennedy track and field coach Jack Thornton, who sees the potential of Watt and the rest of the team’s 400 runners.

It starts with a split 300s where 400 runners start with a hard 50, float 150 and then go for a hard 100, which simulates the first 300 of a 400 race.

“Then, I give him and my 400 runners what I call my four Ps,” Thornton said. “The first P is to Push out, which is that first 50. Second is to feel the Pace, that’s in that first 200. I’m looking at a 200 split. Then, get into Position, he’s coming off this last curve. Then put the Press, put the pedal to the metal. Bring it. We find out how strong you are. Run relaxed. Run with good form, and let the clock take care of itself.

“By doing those things and simulating that in practice, it becomes muscle memory. It’s not something he’s go to be worrying about. You can’t worry about the competition. You can only control what you can do. Your prep before, what we’re doing in practice, and have confidence in that. Then, we’ll give you every opportunity to show what you can do.”

Watt appreciates the advice he gets from Thornton.

“He’s a great guy. He’s real organized,” Watt said. “He has a plan for each of us, individually, make sure we’re doing well.

“I like getting that one-on-one work a lot. It helps me a lot, breaks down everything I need to do, every flaw I’m having in my races. That helps a lot.”

Thornton wants him, like all of Kennedy’s runners, to slowly increase their performance during the season. Watt started the indoor season running 51.7 seconds.

“I figure by the time he runs his first, second or third meet outdoors, he’ll be 51 flat to breaking 50,” Thornton said. “As that weather gets warmer and the opportunities present themselves in the invitational meets we’re running in, he’s going to pop.”

Watt, who is looking at schools like Point Park, Indiana Tech, YSU, Mount Union and other NAIA schools, said he’d like to improve on last year’s sixth-place finish at the Division III state meet (49.93).

This year’s state meet is June 6-7 in Columbus.

“That’s what I’m looking forward to. The whole year builds up to those two days, make sure I’m doing good those two days,” Watt said.