Lakeland senior track star Garret Zuk received special recognition Thursday from the Huron Valley Schools Board of Education for his display of sportsmanship – a display that's gone viral following a letter from a Walled Lake Northern parent.
The following is the letter published on the Lakeland Athletics Facebook page:
There have been moments that made me question the state of sportsmanship in high school athletics. Having been involved as a player, coach, and parent of a high school athlete, I have not always been impressed with the deportment amongst players and coaches. What I saw on Tuesday night, however, restored my belief in the quality of student-athlete Oakland County possesses.
With the results of the Walled Lake Northern and Lakeland boys track meet decided earlier in the meet, many of the athletes were simply competing for personal bests. Lakeland’s top distance runner, Garret Zuk, was slated to win the 3200 meter race by a wide margin. He had already won the 1600 meter run and anchored Lakeland’s winning 3200 meter relay team. Zuk is an incredible runner. He won the boy’s class A state cross country championship in the fall and is expected to compete for a state track title in June.
Devin Kimberlin, Northern’s best 2 miler, is a sophomore. He is a promising young runner and has a bright future in the running sports. On this day he was faced with the daunting task of running against Zuk. Devin had attempted without success to break the 10 minute mark in the 3200 all season and that was his goal for this race. He sought to hang as close as he could to Zuk and finally break the 10 minute barrier.
As the race began, Zuk quickly established his lead over the pack. Kimberlin tried to stay close. At the 800 meter mark, however, Kimberlin had already fallen 5 seconds behind the 10 minute pace. As Northern’s coach, Jeff McNeil yelled encouragement to Kimberlin, spectators and athletes saw Zuk turn and say something to the Northern runner. Some thought that he was taunting him. Lakeland and Northern are fierce rivals in every sport. But anyone that knows Garret Zuk knew that nothing could be further from the truth. What the Bogey Lake nemesis and state champion was saying to Kimberline was, “Stay on my shoulder and I’ll get you there”.
Unbelievably, for the next six laps of the 3200, Zuk paced Kimberlin, encouraging him the entire race. Kimberlin had to push and Zuk kept the pace 5-10 yards ahead of him the whole race. It became evident to those that watched at that point what Zuk was doing and spectators began to cheer them on as Kimberlin’s 10 minute goal began to appear achievable. As the competitors lapped other runners, Zuk took the opportunity to cheer them on as well, encouraging their maximum performance.
The final lap was a negative split- meaning it was faster than all of their previous laps. Zuk pushed Kimberlin’s pace and Kimberlin responded, striving to stay with the senior from Lakeland. As they sprinted the last 100 meters, Zuk’s pace slackened perceptibly, giving Kimberlin the extra surge to catch Zuk. As they crossed the line at 9:58, Zuk intentionally backed off even more, allowing Kimberlin to win the race.
I watched this performance and was astonished. To say that I was, once again, impressed by Lakeland’s Garret Zuk would be an understatement. Somewhere in his young life he has learned the value of humility, sacrifice, and deferential character. He understands that as a champion he is a role model and mentor. He was a hero on this day to one young runner from Walled Lake Northern.
And perhaps to all who watched.
Walled Lake Northern parent