John’s Journal: Shaina Zinter Can Do Almost Anything
Concordia Academy Junior Dominates In Track And Field
Posted: Wednesday, May 26, 2021 - 4:40 PM
Concordia Academy 11th-grader Shaina Zinter throws the javelin. That may sound strange, since the javelin is not a high school event in Minnesota. But Shaina does it, and she also does just about everything else.
Zinter does so much, in fact, that it’s hard to argue against her as the top current track and field athlete in the state. She throws the javelin when she competes in regional and national competitions in the seven-event heptathlon; she was the USA Track and Field Junior Olympic national heptathlon champion in the 15-16 age bracket in 2019.
In Minnesota high school events, her best performances this spring rank No. 1 in both Class A and Class AA in four events: the 200, 400, 100-meter hurdles and 300-meter hurdles. In all four events, her 2021 times are better than the 2019 Class A state champions. Her time in the 800 is No. 1 in Class A, while she ranks third in Class A in the long jump and eighth in the high jump.
“She's always worked hard and she's always had a love of the sport,” said Marc Paul, head coach at Concordia Academy, located in Roseville. “It's really going to be exciting to see what she can accomplish.”
Shaina has run at each Class A state championship meet since she was in seventh grade (there was no state meet in 2020 due to the pandemic). She ran on a state-qualifying 4x200 relay team in 2017, finished fifth in the 300 hurdles as an eighth-grader (also going to state in the 100 hurdles), and in 2019 she was the state runner-up in the 300 hurdles and placed fifth in the 100 hurdles.
“That was very scary,” she said, remembering her state experience in seventh grade. “I was pretty intimidated by all the high school kids and some people who were faster than me, but I thought it was just a fun experience and it was really cool to get to go to state.”
Among her goals this spring is a return to state, of course. She has decided to compete in both hurdle events, the 200 and the long jump in the postseason. It’s hard to argue against her chances of becoming a multiple-event state champ.
“She's so good in the 400, I think she could probably win that at the state meet but with the 300 hurdles right there (immediately after the 400 on meet schedules), obviously it's not going to happen,” Paul said. “So we have to figure out where we can best utilize the schedule and utilize her in her best events.”
Shaina’s parents, Rachel and James, were track and field athletes at Concordia Academy and Rachel is an assistant coach for the Beacons. When they encouraged their daughter to try the sport as a fifth-grader, she wasn’t immediately enthused.
“They kind of made me,” she said with a smile. “I wanted to try it but I don't think I was serious about it. I think I was more of a volleyball person at the time.” (She still plays volleyball and was an all-state honorable mention selection last fall.)
As a seventh-grader she began training with the varsity track team. The original plan was to have her spend the week over spring break with the varsity, but she’s been there ever since. And she has rewritten the Beacons school record book.
“She's really taken some big leaps and bounds, some pun intended,” Paul said. “She holds a bunch of school records; I think she's at eight school records right now. And there could maybe be some others if she wanted to focus there.
“We've got some pretty good track history and the records that she's taking down were set by some really good athletes; state champions, multi-event state champions, some from the 90s, some from the 70s. What sets her apart is just the way she can cover events across the board.”
When the volleyball season ends, Shaina begins training for track and field. With no season a year ago, she worked out on her own, getting on the track at times and running hills in her neighborhood.
After a two-hour practice after school on Tuesday, every athlete had gone home except Zinter. She continued to train with her mom and Ryan Koch, an all-American track athlete and football player at St. Cloud State. Ryan coached his wife, Heather Miller-Koch -- a Wisconsin native and St. Cloud State alum -- to an 18th-place finish in the heptathlon at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil.
Shaina focused on hurdle and long jump form Tuesday, with Koch recording video for immediate feedback.
As he talked about hurdle technique, he said, “We want your parabola to peak here,” using his hands to mimic an athlete and a hurdle. “You want to go down and over the hurdle, not up.”
Shaina owns a javelin and Koch has others. Zinter’s prowess at spiking a volleyball gives her an edge with the javelin, because the arm motion is similar. And being proficient at the javelin made it an easy decision to compete as a heptathlete.
“Ryan has taken her to another level of throwing the javelin,” said Paul, whose daughter Sally is a senior heptathlete at Bethel University in St. Paul. “If you can get the javelin figured out, you've got the multis, especially being a hurdler to start with.
“She's getting great coaching here. I think we’re just starting to find out what she can do.”
--MSHSL media specialist John Millea has been the leading voice of Minnesota high school activities for decades. Follow him on Twitter @MSHSLjohn and listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts. Contact John at firstname.lastname@example.org