Center Grove’s Greller taking aim at 400 title

Watch Zach Greller run and you might think to yourself, “He’s not that fast.”

Then you see him hit the finish line first, and you check the stopwatch. Now you know.

The Center Grove junior has a deceptive speed to him, largely because his long, loping stride seems so effortless. But it’s impossible to argue with the results — Greller finished sixth at last year’s state meet in both the 400-meter dash and the 4×400 relay, and he’s poised to improve upon those performances during this postseason, which begins with today’s sectional meet at Columbus North.

At 6-foot-4, Greller has a built-in edge when it comes to stride length, but his almost cartoonish gait is not just a product of his height; it’s been getting honed in Center Grove football and track coach Eric Moore’s Power Club workouts for almost a decade.

“Since fourth grade, I’ve been working with coach Moore on mini hurdles and stuff, and that helps lengthen out my stride,” Greller said. “It also helps that I’m pretty tall and I have that advantage on people.”

“We do a ton of form work on stride length and stride frequency,” Moore added. “He’s got good DNA for good stride length, but he’s really incorporated his weight room; he’s gotten a lot stronger in the weight room, which helps his legs be able to handle those long strides for a long period of time at a high speed.”

A wide receiver during football season, Greller fits the mold of what Moore looks for in a 400 runner. Trojan wideouts are often running 60- or 70-yard routes on each play during the fall, then having to get back to the line of scrimmage and do the same thing 20 seconds later. It’s the perfect training setup for the 400 — a hellish event that’s too long for most mortals to fully sprint but too short to be paced out like a distance race.

Greller says he took to the race in middle school and embraced the fact that almost nobody else enjoys running it.

“I kind of like it, just because everybody else hates it, so I kind of like having that edge,” he said. “Even in the 4×4, everybody you’ll hear all meet like, ‘Oh man, I’ve got to run the 4×4,’ but our team definitely looks forward to it, and you can see that with the way we compete.”

Having two state medals in pocket helps, too.

Greller got faster as he went along last spring, winning the county meet in 50.74 seconds and the sectional in 50.59. He ran 49.99 a week later to place second at regional before clocking a personal best of 49.47 at state.

In addition, he led off the Trojans’ 4×400 relay, a position that Moore believes he’s perfectly suited for. Greller is running the first leg again on this year’s team, which includes Eli Hohlt, Drew Wheat and Brandon Wheat.

“I like to take the guy that’s the true 400 runner and do that with him to make sure that we’re in a good spot,” Moore said, noting that Greller is also good out of the starting blocks. “Sometimes you get bad lanes, and he can run out of any lane … nothing bothers him mentally.”

Moore compares Greller’s long stride to that of former Center Grove standout Justin Veteto, a state champion in the 300 hurdles who went on to run at Purdue. The coach believes that while Greller has the ability to again reach the state podium himself this spring, his best days are still way out in front of him.

“I think next year is when he blows the whole thing open,” Moore said.

Greller, though, is still focused on the here and now. He’s not only looking to climb as high as he can up the individual state podium on June 4, but he’s also looking to help the Trojans claim their first team championship since 2011 — and join the select group of schools to win football and boys track and field titles in the same school year.

Need proof that he’s motivated? The lock screen photo on Greller’s cell phone is a picture of the Carmel boys track hoisting the state trophy last June.

“Ever since getting that state ring for football, the whole team’s just been talking about how we want the track ring and how we want the two rings. Just keep adding to the collection — this year, next year, in football and track.”

If Center Grove does end up adding to its ring collection this spring, Greller will undoubtedly play a huge part.

Even if you won’t notice his contributions until it’s too late.

“He doesn’t look fast,” Moore said, “until he’s by you.”


Columbus North Sectional

When: 5:30 p.m.

Teams competing: Center Grove, Edinburgh, Franklin, Greenwood Christian, Greenwood, Indian Creek, Whiteland, Columbus East, Columbus North, Hauser, Southwestern, Waldron

Admission: $6