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Zach Zauhar-Kurr made his final turn, digging his feet into the wall of the pool and launching into his last sprint. His legs kicked in rhythm, his arms swinging one after another, aggressively puncturing the water. Despite having a comfortable lead, Zauhar-Kurr pursued this last leg with a passion. A purpose. A hunger. 

This time, Zauhar-Kurr wasn’t going to be beat out. 

A day after failing to win the state championship in the 200 yard Individual Medley (IM), Zauhar-Kurr was out for revenge. So when he looked up to see a number one next to his time of 3:56.31, Zauhar-Kurr let out all of his emotions, slamming his arm through the water and exclaiming in joy. He had earned his redemption. He was a state champion.

Zauhar-Kurr’s time saw him finish an emphatic three seconds ahead of second place Greyson Davies from Grossmont College, earning him the state title in the 400 yard IM. The event was held on May 3, the second day of the 3C2A State Swimming and Diving Championships at the Orange Coast College Aquatics Pavilion. It was the first and only state title the Hawks earned in this year’s competition.

But just 24 hours before this moment of jubilation, Zauhar-Kurr was faced with disappointment. 

Zauhar-Kurr came into day one of the finals with the top state time of 1:50.64 in the 200 yard IM. He then finished first in the preliminary round, locking himself as the favorite for the state title. But the finals told a different story. 

Despite setting a new school record time of 1:50.05 Zauhar-Kurr was bested by Davies and Cayden Pitzer of American River College, losing out on the state title by less than a second. The result left Zauhar-Kurr devastated. He had difficulties sleeping, managing only five and a half hours, plagued with the hunger for redemption. 

It was a similar story for the 400 IM. Again Zauhar-Kurr came in with the top time from the season, and managed to win the preliminary rounds. But in Friday’s final, Zauhar-Kurr refocused and steadied himself, leading to a dominant performance to complete his redemption. At the end of which, he failed to contain his emotions.

“It feels awesome,” Zauhar-Kurr exclaimed. “Especially after yesterday, how I feel like I underperformed from what I should have done. I knew this was my opportunity, so I knew I had to just rip it.”

CHEERING ON on teammate Jay Jani in the 800 yard freestyle are (from left to right) Zach Zauhar-Kurr, Logan Borrelli and Ryan Ridosko. (Photo by Jakob Arnarsson/ The Express)

Zauhar-Kurr, with the help of head coach Jason Craighead, had a more relaxed strategy for the 400 IM. The two agreed that he needed to focus on himself and his own race, while also getting back to doing what he had been the whole season — having fun.

“I was a lot more focused, and I was more tense,” Zauhar-Kurr said of his mindset in the 200 IM. “I was just way too tense. So I just told myself, ‘lets just have fun.”

Despite making a larger effort to enjoy himself more, Zauhar-Kurr was still hungry to send a message.

“He just made a point,” Craighead said. “I’m here, I’m fast. This is my race. No one’s touching me and whatever happened the day before is done. We talked about it last night, about our mentality coming in and taking it as motivation and he’s like ‘yeah, I am winning this one, without question.”

After earning his title and letting out all the pent up emotions in the pool, Zauhar-Kurr looked up to his right into the crowd, and pumped out his fist. But he wasn’t simply acknowledging the crowd. Rather he was celebrating with the two people who have been there from the very beginning — his parents. In particular, Zauhar-Kurr was celebrating with his dad, David, who has made it to every swimming event since he was nine years old. All while dealing with paralysis in his leg.

“It means a lot, ” Zauhar-Kurr said. “It’s really hard for him to get around, but he just does it. I know him, he wouldn’t miss it for the world.. And so it was cool seeing his reaction to it as well.”

Zauhar-Kurr showcased his ability to deal with adversity, something he has seen his father do countless times. While his third place finish left him disappointed, he never let it waver his mindset. He instead employed a strategy he learned from one of his older coaches — give yourself 20 minutes to be upset, and then following those 20 minutes, refocus on how to perform better in the next event.

“His work ethic, his mentality is what got him where he is,” Craighead said. “He’s extremely coachable, he wants to learn and he’s ready for feedback and information.”

Zauhar-Kurr also helped the team finish 10th in the 200 yard medley relay and sixth in the 800 yard freestyle relay. His efforts led to the men’s team finishing day two of the three day competition in eight place, just five points behind Golden West. 

Then, on Saturday, May 4, Zauhar-Kurr added another solid performance to complete his championship resume, finishing fourth in the 200 yard breastroke. The result officially brought Zauhar Kurr’s impressive LPC swimming career to an end. One that he hopes will leave a lasting impact. 

“I just want to leave a positive impact on Las Positas Swimming and everyone that’s with me,” Zauhar-Kurr said. 

One thing’s for sure — Zauhar-Kurr will forever be edged into LPC swim and dive history as a state champion.

Top photo: Zach Zauhar-Kurr swims the breaststroke key of the individual medley race. (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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