All photos by Margot Kelly/CalRunners.com/AZTrackXC.com
Running runs rampant in the Perrin household. Zach was born in sunny San Diego, and as a youngster his family packed up and moved from Minnesota the land of 10,000 lakes, to the beautiful outdoors of Montana. Zach is one of four children and says his parents introduced him to the running world when he was in the 4th grade.
"One day my mom just woke me and my brother up and told us we were going to do a one mile fun run. I didn't do too bad. The next week I started to train with my mom for a 5k, but I hated the sport because my mom was faster than me and that really made me mad. I stuck with it and it gradually became easier."
Perrin began to excel at the middle school level and transitioned smoothly to the high school running scene at Flathead High School in Kalispell, Montana. As a freshman he finished 7th at the Montana Cross Country State Championships finishing the three mile course in 16:00. Last year, he improved on his seventh place showing by crossing the line five spots higher as runner-up in a new personal best time of 15:25.52. He says overall he was pleased with his performance because of all the obstacles he had to overcome to get there.
"My junior year was definitely good for cross county, but it's such a frustrating sport because there are so many factors and it always seems inevitable that you will get sick. This year I wasn't very focused. I came into the season in the best shape of my life and then halfway in I got a grade two ankle sprain doing a back flip off of a slack line. It definitely wasn't the smartest thing to do during the season, but I have learned from my mistakes for sure. It was so frustrating to have to sit out for three meets and let my ankle heal. The swelling and bruising finally went away and I was able to pull off a pretty good run at states."
Since Montana does not have an indoor season the Flathead standout tries to compete in several out of state meets to keep his legs fresh. This year he went to Pocatello, Idaho for the Simplot Games where he competed with fellow Montana high school runner Troy Fraley of Glacier High School. Perrin finished ahead of Fraley in third with a time of 9:24.22 for 3200 meters.
The Simplot Games were a good tune-up for Perrin's first outdoor test of the season, the Arcadia Invitational. Perrin's seed time for the 3200 meter invitational run was one of the slowest in the 30 runner field, but he didn't let that deter him from running stride for stride with the nations' best. He calls the experience one of the greatest running moments of his life.
"My plan going down there (Arcadia) was to ride the sub 9:00 train for as long as possible and see if I could break the Montana two mile record which was 9:07. I came through the first mile at 4:33 and thought to myself that I probably wouldn't break 9:00, but I may still be able to get the record. I continued to feel great and began working my way up. It was so surreal on the 7th lap being in 5th right
next to Futsum (Zeinasellasie) Dallin Farnsworth, Darren Fahy, and all of those big names. Then at the start of the 8th lap I knew I was going to break 9:00. I kicked hard at the end, then coming through at 8:55 was just astonishing to me. It was a 29 second pr."
Perrin finished in eighth place. Not only was his time a new personal best it was the fastest 3200 meters ever run by a Montana high school athlete. The Flathead junior credits the field and the amazing atmosphere to pushing him to new heights and says the accolades haven't quite sunk in.
"4,000 fans, perfect temperatures, and being under the lights in California you just felt so fast being on the track and doing strides before the race. I was so ecstatic when I crossed the line I couldn't believe it. It definitely hasn't sunk in yet."
Arcadia is a stepping stone for Perrin. He plans to carry the momentum to his regular season where he has plans to break even more records like the school record in the 800 meters which is 1:53. He believes another fast meet like Arcadia could put him in a place to break the state record of 4:10 for 1600 meters as well. It's all part of a legacy he is hoping to leave not just in tradition rich Flathead, but the state of Montana.
"I'm just really proud to run for such a great school like Flathead. We have a great running tradition and a great coach in Paul Jorgenson who was national cross country coach of the year in 2008. Montana has never really been thought of as one of the premier states for long distance, but I'd like to try and change that."