Parkland Press

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Photos courtesy of Eastern Michigan University AthleticsDerek Ziegenfuss battled through adversity that no college freshman should have to bear en route to earning All-American status. Copyright - © Scott W. Grau All Rights Reserved  Photos courtesy of Eastern Michigan University AthleticsDerek Ziegenfuss battled through adversity that no college freshman should have to bear en route to earning All-American status. Copyright - © Scott W. Grau All Rights Reserved
Photos courtesy of Eastern Michigan University Athletics With a heavy heart and his mind still on his father, Derek Ziegenfuss competed in the biggest meet of his throwing career at the MAC Championships. Copyright - © Scott W. Grau All Rights Reserved  Photos courtesy of Eastern Michigan University Athletics With a heavy heart and his mind still on his father, Derek Ziegenfuss competed in the biggest meet of his throwing career at the MAC Championships. Copyright - © Scott W. Grau All Rights Reserved

Ziegenfuss earns All-American

Thursday, August 4, 2016 by TODD KRESs tkress@tnonline.com in Sports

Obstacles and hurdles have been thrown at Derek Ziegenfuss. Every time he has overcome them in a remarkable manner.

The first setback came in his senior year of high school when a number of injuries derailed him from what he anticipated to be a memorable state performance in the javelin. Instead, a rib injury forced him to be less than full strength once his performance at Shippensburg University came around.

But after missing out on qualifying for junior nationals in his senior year at Parkland, Ziegenfuss, who recently finished his freshman season at Eastern Michigan University, qualified for that stage after a historic inaugural collegiate season.

“To be able to come out this year and get that title of All-American was really special,” said Ziegenfuss, who threw 62 meters. “It’s something that I’ve been working towards for the past four years. It’s good to finally get it.

“My throw wasn’t really the greatest throw, but I still got fourth place which makes me a junior All-American.”

His first season at Eastern Michigan got off to the best start he could have imagined. Ziegenfuss set a new personal record of 216 feet, 10 inches, in the team’s first indoor meet at the Oliver Nikoloff Invitational. He went on to steadily progress over the next couple of weeks and adjusted to the college scene.

Then, in an instant, his entire life changed rather abruptly. His father, Larry Ziegenfuss, was hospitalized with pneumonia that unfortunately led to other complications.

“The day he did pass my mom called me and it was a shock,” Ziegenfuss said. “I didn’t believe it at first. He had complications from the pneumonia and he had a heart attack.”

Derek spent the following two weeks at home with his family once finals completed. Track was the last thing on his mind. The biggest meet of his career, the MAC Outdoor Championships, was in a matter of days.

“Those two weeks that I was home I wasn’t thinking about track at all,” Ziegenfuss said. “When I had to get on the plane and go back to school, I was not feeling it. Coming into the MAC Meet I wasn’t confident; when I was about to throw I had no nerves and I kind of wasn’t feeling anything. At that point the only thing I wanted to do was go out there and win for my family and my dad.”

Ziegenfuss threw a mark of 221 feet, 3.5 inches at the MAC Championships to win the event and set a new personal best. He edged Akron’s Ian Behm by three feet on his sixth and final throw.

To add to Ziegenfuss’ accomplishment, the freshman set a new school record with the throw. He was also named the MAC Freshman of the Year.

“At the beginning of the year, my coach told me that I had a pretty good shot at placing at the MAC Conference Meet,” Ziegenfuss said. “I got my hopes up, and I was looking forward to the MAC Meet my whole year. With the indoor season and not being able to compete was kind of tough. I kept my mind set on placing at the MAC Meet.

“With everything that happened with my dad and my family, being able to go out there and win the gold was special. It meant a lot to me. It meant a lot to my family. It was great.”

Not even two weeks later, Ziegenfuss threw 205 feet, 11 inches to take 26th place at the NCAA East Regional. Then came his trip to junior nationals where he earned one of his most prestigious awards yet.

Once summer rolled around, Ziegenfuss was back at his hometown high school of Parkland helping a number of grade school athletes in a track and field camp. It was the second year he’s been involved with the camp, and he enjoys giving back by helping kids in a sport that he started in his freshman year as a member of the Trojans.