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Zach Zauhar-Kurr stood on the left side of the starting block, shaking his dangling arms. The sky is now a clear Carolina blue for the finals at Santa Rosa Junior College, after the prelims were impacted by periods of heavy rain. It was Saturday, March 23, his third straight day of racing. 

But fatigue doesn’t factor into the mindset. This is what he and the rest of the Hawks have been preparing for all season. To compete at a high level throughout the taxing championship format.

As he got in position for the race to start, there was just one thing on his mind. 

“I have gotten best times in my 200 IM and 400 IM, (with) school records,” Zauhar-Kurr said. “We got a 200 breast later, so try to get another school record, go three for three.”

When the buzzer sounded, that intention became clear. Zauhar-Kurr got off to a fast start and was the first to complete the turn. After that, his lead only grew. His finishing time of 2:03.08 won with a seven-second lead. The trifecta was completed.

“He’s a machine,” Coach Jason Craighead said. “He’s an animal.”

Behind Zauhar-Kurr’s record-setting three-day stretch, Las Positas posted the third-highest combined score at the 2024 Bobby Miyashiro Invitational. 

The Hawks men finished the meet with the second-most points with 486. Zauhar-Kurr led the way with 60 points, while Logan Borrelli and Ryan Ridosko added another 111. The Hawks women finished fifth with 330 points behind solid performances from Samantha Fehr (43), Sarah Dorn (36) and Annie Holm (30).

Zauhar-Kurr and the Hawks men’s performance feeds their confidence in their upcoming title defense in the 2024 Coast Conference Championships, held April 18-20 at the College of Marin. The Hawks women are still searching for the right strategy to avenge their second-place finish last year. 

The championship format in Santa Rosa over the weekend gave the Hawks their best chance of the season to see how they stack against their competition. The newcomers to the team also got a chance to experience the toll of the three-day format. 

“These kinds of meets are a lot more focused,” Zauhar-Kurr said. “Some of the meets like at De Anza earlier in the year we did like eight events in two hours. This meet we’ve got prelims, you go out, try to get top eight, and then you come back in the afternoon. It’s a lot more specialized, so you can really lock in, get your mental focus in for the finals.”

The schedule alone is taxing.

“It’s a lot to get up at six in the morning,” Craighead said, “leave in a bus at 7 a.m. I think we got back at 9:15 last night.”

The weather added to the degree of difficulty. Periods of heavy rain and steady gusts of wind on Saturday in Santa Rosa made staying warm between races a challenge.

“I thought our performance was excellent,” Craighead said. “It’s never ideal conditions when it’s 55 and raining. But you know, we learn to race through adversity, race through difficult conditions, things that aren’t ideal.”

What Craighead said he is focused on is the improvement. He said he likes their odds because of the preparation and learning experiences. He’s watching his team grow with every race, every mee, and it’s increasing his optimism.

Plus, the Hawks have Zauhar-Kurr. He made the finals in three of his four events. He won each final, setting a new top state time in each event.

“Everything Zach is doing is a culmination of his hard work and his dedication and his attitude,” Craighead said. “We did talk about it, like hey if we’re gonna go fast, let’s make a statement. Let’s do it right, and go all in, and we made some statements.”

Zauhar-Kurr not only believes in the team’s chances at the Coast Conference Championships, but also his own when it comes to winning a title at the State Championships.

“I’m not gonna say definitely win,” Zauhar-Kurr said, “but I think we have a good chance at winning Coast Conference. And then State, I know we got a few guys, Ryan (Ridosko) and I, we want to try to get a title. We’re pretty confident, just take it a week at a time, but we got high confidence.” 

Top photo: Zach Zauhar-Kurr leads the men’s team’s pursuit of a repeat in the Coast Conference Championship and pursuit of a state title. (Photo by Jakob Arnarsson/ The Express)

Jakob Arnarsson is the Sports Editor of The Express. Follow him on X, formally Twitter, @JakobA2004.

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