At this point in his senior season as a runner for the North Central College men’s cross country team, Zach Plank (’17) has earned three College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin (CCIW) Athlete of the Week awards.
He was most recently given this award on Oct. 4 for his performance in the NCAA Division III Pre-Nationals race at Sawyer State Park in Louisville, Ky., on Oct. 1. Plank took first place out of 388 runners, finishing with a time of 24:53.60.
He was satisfied with his first place finish, but seeing how well his teammates performed is what really made his day. “It was a cool feeling to come across (in first), but it was even better when I turned around and saw how close my teammates were,” said Plank. “They are starting to close the gap on me. That was much more of a fulfilling feeling than coming in first.”
Earning the CCIW Athlete of the Week award is special, but Plank hopes his success serves as motivation for the underclassmen on the team. “It’s a cool honor to have, but I don’t go into a race thinking, ‘I want to be the top guy so I get the CCIW award,’ but it’s definitely a cool thing to have,” said Plank. “Hopefully it’s something the younger guys can look up to and see it as a way of using me as a role model.”
Plank has been able to achieve so much this season thanks to hard work, knowledge, and motivation from his teammates. “I’d really attribute it to the four years I’ve had here,” said Plank. “Every year I learn something new. The accumulation of my training and everything I’ve learned has attributed to my success. And of course the teammates I have now and have had in the past give me strength and carry me through each workout and race.”
His senior season of cross country is coming to a finish, but Plank has the confidence that he will be able to continue to succeed. “We have just a few more races,” said Plank. “I expect to put myself where I belong, and see where it goes from there. I don’t really have placement goals or time goals, I just know I’ll do well when the time comes.”
Aside from what Plank and the men’s cross country team gets done on the course, they are well-known on campus for their table at Kaufman.
They make a lot of noise and have a lot of fun, but it’s not with the intent to disrupt the peace. “The things that we do and say (at Kaufman) have gone on for years,” said Plank. “It’s more camaraderie than trying to annoy people or make a bunch of noise.”
Along with the commotion, the team bonds in a rather interesting way. “We play this game called ‘Hot Drink,’ and it’s the dumbest thing,” said Plank. “Basically, someone shoots a piece of food into someone else’s hot drink, and if the person that shoots it makes it, they have that drink poured on them. Whoever throws the food knows what they’re getting themselves into, but they do it anyway. It’s just something we do to bond.”
After all the hard work of cross country practices, meets and being full-time students, the team likes to unwind and have fun. “We just like to have a good time and not take things too seriously because we’re only here for four years, and we want to make the best of it,” said Plank.