YSU grads Harden, Zallow still competing
YOUNGSTOWN — Lanes four and five, two decorated Youngstown State graduates stand side by side moments before the starting pistol is raised.
The Watson and Tressel Training Site was practically home for Collin Harden and Chad Zallow, a pair of born-and-bred Mahoning Valley track athletes who concluded their collegiate careers with more championship rings, records, and comdationations than one could count.
Saturday afternoon as part of the YSU Icebreaker, Harden and Zallow once more faced off against each other as unattached runners, with the Penguins beginning their 2021-2022 indoor track season on a day that featured more than 40 teams.
With eyes set on bigger goals, the road always leads home.
Following an appearance at the United States Olympics Trials, Harden, a graduate of Girard High School, now runs for his own company, “Create Behind the Scenes,” with bold white letters spelling out C.B.T.S. on his uniform.
After almost quitting the sport for good heading into his senior year of high school, Harden went on to win the 300-meter hurdles at the state meet for Girard in 2016, a journey that led to a 17th overall finish in the 400-meter hurdles at the Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon, in late June.
“It enlightened me to more experiences, just being among the best of the best in the country, that’s something to be proud of,” Harden said. “I definitely am proud of the fact that I did make the Olympic Trials, but I wouldn’t say it changed me. I’m always going to be humble, and the fact that I can always achieve more, that’s all I’m worried about.”
For Zallow, the goal of potentially vying for a spot on the U.S. Olympic Team was one that slipped away after hamstring issues plagued the Warren John F. Kennedy grad throughout much of the time leading up to the trials, just missing the cut.
A sense of frustration sets in, but life goes on.
“I felt like I was in a really good position going into the trials, I was in the best shape of my life,” Zallow said. “Pulled my hamstring, which is a part of running fast, pushing your body to the limits, so it didn’t quite happen.
“Taking the summer off and being away from track for so long, I was kind of itching to come back and compete again. I’m a competitive person, so just coming out here in the first meet of December, just felt really good.”
Track is a more individualized sport. Unlike in college where there’s a set schedule, runners like Harden and Zallow have to decide where to run or not run, with prize money, appearance fees, and sponsorships playing a major role in day-to-day operations.
Previously making appearances at the nationally televised Millrose Games in New York City, Zallow is in talks to potentially make appearances in France or Berlin, depending on COVID-19 restrictions in the spring.
Meet directors help pay the way for athletes to compete, attracting runners from all parts of the globe, with sponsorships covering fees as well.
Youngstown State hosts its inaugural YSU Collegiate Holiday Classic this Saturday, and Zallow hasn’t ruled out potentially competing in the 60-meter dash at the WATTS to see where he’s at speed-wise.
Posting a time of 7.76 seconds, Zallow took home first place in the 60-meter hurdles last Saturday, with Harden coming in second with a personal-best mark of 7.87 seconds.
There isn’t a block Y on their chests anymore, but the two still push each other, both at practice and on the track.
“I grew up running against (Harden), it’s always good to duke it out with him,” Zallow said. “He’s always a great competitor, a great guy and a great training partner.
“I think Northeastern Ohio produces a lot of great track athletes; Collin Harden is just one of them. There’s a lot of talent in the area, and it’s great to see it staying around here.”
Besides being an athlete, Harden always wanted to be his own boss, with his company’s mission being to promote the work that goes on behind the scenes for an athlete that doesn’t always come to light.
Still a student of the game, studying film and making tweaks as needed, having his own business has been a rewarding aspect of post-college life for him.
“Not a lot of schools teach you about running companies, or about owning your own business,” Harden said. “They want you to go out into the workforce. The fact that I can work for myself and create my own business, I love that fact.
“There are a lot of meets going on, but at the same time, you don’t know which ones to run in, so, it’s a lot tolling on your mind, so it’s all about the progress, I’m figuring out how to be able professional, what meets to run in, what meets not to.”