ENTERPRISE – A few years back while in seventh grade, Enterprise senior Zac Knapp took up running as a training regiment for the soccer season. Fast forward to 2021 and Knapp has long ago left dreams of soccer for he is now the top cross-country runner in the Oregon 3A ranks.
“Looking back, it was a blessing I ever started running,” said Knapp. “I remember begging my parents not to make me run cross country.”
A blessing indeed for everyone but the rest of the Oregon 3A runners. Currently, Knapp is the lone athlete to run under 16 minutes over a 5,000-meter course among all 3A runners, 30 seconds quicker than the rest of the state. Knapp’s time of 15 minutes, 24.9 seconds ranks as the 17th quickest time among all runners in the state.
Not bad for a student athlete who just became serious about the sport last year.
“Last year was the first time I really became serious and put in the effort,” said Knapp. “I love running. Living in Enterprise, I can run in the plains, the mountains, anywhere. My favorite times are just grabbing a couple teammates and driving to somewhere new to run. We just take off and find a place and go. My favorite place to run is Mount Howard. It is just beautiful.”
After placing third in the state meet in April, Knapp has turned this season into a trio of first place finishes. His first-place medal finishes include Catherine Creek, Wallowa County Invitational and the recent Stanfield Fun Country.
“Catherine Creek was not fun this year,” he said. “It was so cold and just pouring the entire race. I can say I did not have fun at the race.”
Knapp is part of an Enterprise boys’ team routinely grabbing top team finishes. In addition to Knapp holding the top time in the state’s 3A runners, Enterprise senior Bayden Menton is ranked fifth. At number 11 is fellow senior Ian Goodrich and coming in at number 15 is senior Levi Ortswan. The talented team of seniors includes Chase Homan with the 19th quickest time making five Enterprise athletes in the top 20 times.
“It is amazing, we are like the golden generation of running,” Knapp said of the talent surrounding him. “We also have a real talented group of younger runners and Enterprise looks great for years to come. There is also a great group of girls coming into high school to bolster that team.”
Knapp’s talents have not gone unnoticed. The next level of competition is staring to call.
“I have been contacted by six or so colleges,” he said. “I have started to schedule visits after state.”
Knapp said he is heavily interested in attending Western Oregon University with plans to study kinesiology or business.
Knapp is the first to admit his talents do not stem from a running background. His father did play collegiate soccer, but his family does not accompany him on his long-distance training jaunts.
“My dad and mom run sometimes, but not that often,” he said. “My brother plays football although he should run cross country. He ran one race last year and won, but as soon as football started this fall, he went right back to it. He is a good runner, but the interest is not there.”
Knapp will finish off his senior year at Enterprise with track in the spring. Three school records are his goal.
“I believe I can set records in the 3000, 1500 and 800 races,” he said. “The one race I worry about if the 800 where I need to take six seconds off my best time.”
For the soccer player turned runner, the race is only part of the whole plan. Training, the mindset and nutrition takes up most of the time.
“I have placed myself on a very strict diet and put together a meal plan every Sunday,” he said. “I plan all the way down to what I will eat before so many minutes before a race and then after, exactly what I need to rehydrate.”
Even with all the planning and practice, Knapp credits much of his success to those around him.
“It is my teammates, my coaches and my family that have got me where I am today,” he said.