Joe Davidson

This Monterey Trail runner could make area history. Why his approach to sports is rare

This Elk Grove athlete ran California's second-fastest 400 meters this year

Zach Larrier of Monterey Trail High School has run the second-fastest 400 meters in California this year.
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Zach Larrier of Monterey Trail High School has run the second-fastest 400 meters in California this year.

Zach Larrier stands as a rarity.

He is a three-sport athlete in an era of specialization. He is a star with a football in his hands, a grunt-guy cog in basketball, a burner in track.

The Monterey Trail High School junior is also a 4.1 GPA student and a team captain. He has football scholarship offers from nearby programs such as Sacramento State, UC Davis, Cal and Fresno State to the Pac-12 with Oregon State and Washington State to military posts Army and Air Force. And he has academic interest from Ivy League members Harvard and Princeton.

"He's one of a kind," Monterey Trail assistant football coach Rick Arcuri said. "You don't see kids like Zach. We love him here."

Larrier passed for 800 yards and ran for 696 yards and 12 touchdowns for a playoff football team. He helped the Mustangs in hoops with passes, steals and rebounds. And he is setting scores of school records in track, barreling down to Clovis on Friday and Saturday for the 100th CIF State Track and Field Championships.

Larrier is a regional favorite to reach the victory stand. He has the state's second-fastest time in the 400 meters at 47.12 seconds. He also qualified for the CIF meet in the 200 (his best is 21.75) and is the anchor leg for the Masters champion 4x400 relay team that has a seasonal best of 3 minutes, 18.84 seconds.

The only area champions in the 400 were from the 1970s: Rod Connors of Cordova in 1974 (won in 47.7) and Johnny Ware of Sacramento in 1975 (47.2).

"I like my chances to do well," Larrier said with an assuring smile.

Larrier hardly seems to even wince when he roars through what can be a gut-wrenching one-lap chore. Has he ever hugged a trash can after finishing that race?

"Never," he said with a laugh. "I'm always in shape from football, so that helps. I love that race."

But Larrier wasn't sure he would embrace track nearly as much as he has football, but track coach Robert Longan urged him to play multiple sports.

"I kept telling him as a freshman he needs to come out for track," said Longan, also an assistant coach on the football team. "So glad he did. He wanted to do 7-on-7 passing leagues in football and I reminded him that college coaches don't recruit guys off 7-on-7. They do in track, though."

To that end, Longan said he has pestered coaches at Stanford to take a peek at Larrier, the thinking that if he's good enough to garner Ivy League interest, he's good enough for Stanford interest.

"I hit them up all the time and tell them that Zach has it all," Longan said. "He has great morals and values. He's a terrific student and athlete. He's like an adult. He's a 47-second quarter-miler who can play football. You can't teach that. He's a no-brainer. I'd tell (Stanford coach) David Shaw, 'Dude, he's you, a 3-sport guy!'"

Larrier said he could not imagine going through high school without engaging in three sports. He budgets his time with studies and sports because it is what his mother, Emily, taught him. Now Larrier implores students on campus to maximize their ability and to participate in something.

"It's all about sports and grades – it's my life," Larrier said.

Larrier said he might not even be the biggest star on the team. He pointed to senior hurdler Nia Collins, who qualified for both hurdles events this weekend. A 4.1 student, she is headed to San Diego State on scholarship, and her school records may one day be broken by her younger sister, India.

Larrier credits his parents for his athletic genes. His mother ran the 400 at Youngstown State University in Ohio. His father, Damon, played football in the trenches – center and nose guard – at American International College on the East Coast.

Larrier's mother is a constant in the stands. He wishes his father could have seen him in action. Damon Larrier died at 31 before his son turned 3.

"Enlarged heart," Larrier said. "My family tells me a lot about him. In my room at home, I have a big picture of him taking his helmet off. It means a lot to me. Family means everything."

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