Zmuda high steps to new heights

Freshmen+Daniel+Zmuda+leaps+over+a+hurdle+during+a+track+practice+in+the+Indoor+Facility%2C+Wednesday%2C+Feb.+12.

Freshmen Daniel Zmuda leaps over a hurdle during a track practice in the Indoor Facility, Wednesday, Feb. 12.

Adam Loewy | Evergreen Track and Field reporter

This weekend the Cougar sprinters and jumpers will travel to the Don Kirby Elite Invitational in Albuquerque, N. M., while other track and field members will travel west of the cascades to compete at the Husky Classic in Seattle.  Both competitions are highly anticipated meets as WSU enters the final stretch of the indoor meets. 

Head Coach Rick Sloan said this weekend’s competition introduces the team to a higher level of competition for the first time this season. 

“This is two weeks out (from the indoor meet championships), and we need to be hitting our stride right about now,” Sloan said. “This will be a good test for us to see where we are.”

The WSU men’s hurdle team is producing quality results this season, but one freshman is perhaps making the biggest impact by breaking records. 

Running hurdles hasn’t always come easy for Daniel Zmuda. Throughout high school Zmuda struggled at his craft, but for him patience and persistence is the key. Zmuda is not the strongest hurdler on the team and is often out-squatted by more than 100 pounds and sometimes mentally frustrated with the results in the weight room.

“Some people are power hurdlers, but I see myself as a speed hurdler,” Zmuda said. 

Zmuda’s agility started developing in high school and earned him several track and field victories. His High Voltage Track Club Coach Jeanine Shepherd played a prominent role in his success. 

Zmuda said the hands-on experience and knowledge she provided allowed him to view hurdles from a different perspective. 

“The singularity or separation from the (club and high school) team was allowing me to gain a lot of insight into what she was telling me (and then) translate it to (WSU),” he said. “Without her, I wouldn’t be in the spot I am today.” 

Zmuda said he views Shepard like a second mother and constantly picks her brain for tips during practices and at meets. 

Throughout high school, Zmuda suffered nagging Achilles injuries that continue to hound him at WSU. As a senior, he lost both state championships due to injury. To make matters worse, he badly wanted to run the hurdles in less than 14 seconds, which is a feat that no one had accomplished in the state of Washington in the last 10 years. His high school rival was the first to do it.  

“Taking failure is also a good thing,” Zmuda said. “I see it as a stepping stone, instead of a setback.  Some people start track and they’re really good off the bat. They’re already performing at a high level, but with me I really (struggled).  I wasn’t seeing success (quickly). I wasn’t producing the results I wanted to, as fast as I wanted to.” 

The injury impacted his motivation and made it difficult to train hard, and at times the overwhelming injury created thoughts of quitting. 

“I just thought that this was a little hurdle,” he said. “I jump hurdles all the time, and this is just another hurdle that I (have to) get over.” 

After his senior year and before attending WSU, Zmuda trained harder than ever. With the help of Shepherd, he finally broke through and ran the hurdles in less than 14 seconds. 

WSU Assistant Coach Mark Macdonald observes the amount of physical and mental work that Zmuda incorporates into practices and every repetition on a daily basis. Macdonald said Zmuda really excels in the hurdles and is progressing faster than most freshmen. 

“The college hurdles are three inches higher than the high school hurdles and that can cause problems for many freshmen hurdlers,” Macdonald said. “Daniel is making the adjustment more quickly than most.” 

“Seeing that Garrett (Gerling) and Josiah (Sims) were stuck in the same spot last year, I was just trying to think about what could help push this whole hurdle group into becoming a great hurdle team,” Zmuda said. “Hopefully with the aspects that I’m bringing now, we can start producing good times.”