Zach Greller has run races in which it seemed the finish line was the next county over.
The Center Grove senior, twice a state medalist in the 400-meter dash, knows the physical and mental fatigue that comes with completing the final turn.
The home stretch … there’s nothing homey about it.
“To be a 400 runner, you have to have the willingness to finish it,” said Greller, who at 6-foot-4, 180 pounds features a stride that is tailor-made for the event. “The last 100 meters is one of the hardest things in athletics that I’ve experienced.
“It seems like the closer you get to (finish line), the farther it is away. But I kind of like hurting, and having the reward that comes with it.”
Last week, Greller assured himself a shot at a third consecutive medal by finishing fourth at the Greenfield-Central Regional but still eclipsing the state qualifying standard with a time of 49.20 seconds.
He is seeded 14th at state on Friday behind, among others, top-seeded Plainfield senior Nayyir Newash-Campbell (47.53), the reigning state champion. Newash-Campbell opened the postseason with a state-record time of 46.67 at the Plainfield Sectional.
Besides the open 400, Greller’s day will include anchoring the Trojans’ 4×400 effort to close the meet.
“I like having the pressure on me,” said Greller, referring to his role on the relay.
Greller has his own three-pronged strategy when it comes to completing a lap as quickly as possible:
• Get out of the blocks strong in order to be at or near the front after 50 meters.
• Maintain that speed and stride over the next 150 meters.
• Pour every ounce of energy remaining into the final 200.
As a sophomore, Greller’s time of 49.47 was good for sixth place at state; he returned last spring to place ninth, running a 49.19.He posted a personal best of 49.04 in winning at this season’s sectional at Columbus North.
The Center Grove 4×400, also comprised of leadoff Micah Coyle, sophomore Brevin Holubar and Parker Doyle, dominated at both sectional and regional, clocking respective times of 3:20.18 and 3:20.45.
Greller is the lone holdover from a year ago, when he led off as the Trojans finished fourth at state in 3:20.72.
“I definitely think I’m a lot stronger and have the experience,” said Greller, who earlier this month committed to be part of the Indiana University men’s track and field program.
“I’ve got a lot of training under my belt. Coach (Eric) Moore is one of the best coaches in the state, and he’ll make us peak at the right time of the season.”
Not that Greller requires additional motivation, but every so often he’ll pull up the video clip of then-Center Grove senior Jackson Hohlt’s somewhat legendary final 100 meters to close the 2016 state meet.
Hohlt passed a trio of runners to lead the Trojans’ 4×400 relay to the win in a time of 3:18.66.
Moore, who has had his share of outstanding 400 specialists in his 24 seasons as Trojans coach, understands that one lap of 100% is not easy.
“You have to be a little bit crazy, and you have to be tough,” Moore said. “Zach is very coachable. Never misses a thing. Just a beautiful runner when he runs.
“He’s got the great height and has bought into the fact that he can get out of the blocks like a true sprinter, and his technique is wonderful. Late in his sophomore season, he stopped racing the competition, and started racing the race.”
IF YOU GO
IHSAA state finals
Where: Robert C. Haugh Complex, Indiana University
When: 3 p.m. Friday (boys) and Saturday (girls)
Admission: $15 per day (no cash); children 24 months and younger free
Webstream: $15 per day (IHSAATV.org)
Center Grove — Micah Coyle (200 meters), Zach Greller (400), Jarret Rockwell (800), Kyle Montgomery (1,600), Parker Mimbela (3,200), Parker Doyle (110 and 300 hurdles), Garrett Messer (discus and shot put), Caden York (long jump), Peyton Coffey (high jump), Carter Pheifer (pole vault), 4×400 and 4×800 relays; Franklin — J.D. Sever (300 hurdles); Greenwood — William Riley (100 meters); Whiteland — Matthew Wray (200 meters), Tayton Schakel (discus), Scott Parrish (pole vault), 4×100 relay
Center Grove — Kate Henselmeier (200 and 400 meters), Marissa Pogue (800), Molly Tapak (100 hurdles), Shelby Wingler (discus and shot put), Khloe Walker (pole vault), Hannah Smith (pole vault), 4×100, 4×400 and 4×800 relays; Franklin — Aubrey Runyon (100 and 300 hurdles), Brooke Coffman (300 hurdles and high jump), Lauren Klem (1,600), Morgan Sandrock (high jump); Greenwood — Emma Gardner (discus and shot put), Amy Luttrell (pole vault); Indian Creek — 4×800 relay; Whiteland — Tori Jackson (800), Brooklyn Taylor (discus), Addison Emberton (discus), Elnora Stevenson (long jump), 4×100 relay