Robbinsville High’s Zach Michon finished 7th in the 1,600-meter run at the New Jersey Meet of Champions June 8, 2016 in South Plainfield. (Photo by John Blaine.)
Zach Michon decided to take off from soccer for one season.
That season is now 4-years old.
“I was a big soccer player, played travel soccer through middle school, and played on the middle school team,” the recent Robbinsville High graduate said. “Being from a family of almost all runners I decided to give running a try my freshman year for cross country season. I set soccer aside for a year, and I was hooked on running. There was no going back to soccer.”

Nor should there have been, judging by how things turned out.

Michon completed his outstanding distance running career as a Raven by medalling in the NJSIAA Meet of Champions with a personal best, seventh-place time of 4:13.77 in the 1600. He arrived at the MOC by taking second in Central Jersey Group II and third in the Group II meet.

“Central Group II this year was very strong in distance,” Ravens coach Jon Hutchinson said. “The sixth-place time in the 1600 was 4:21 so he had to run a hot time. The groups were murder’s row, and he finished third at groups against (River Dell’s talented Daly brothers, William and Colin). It was impressive, he actually finished within a second of them. He was closing really hard on them. They had one or two steps of extra real estate and had to take it down. It was a lot of fun to watch.”

Michon also qualified for the MOC in the 3200 but decided to focus on the 1600.

“He had a really good seeding in the 16 and had been running really hot in the 16 for the last couple meets,” Hutchinson said. “We said, ‘All right, let’s go 16.’ If he did the 32, he probably would have done equally as well. Ever since the beginning of May, he’s been on fire as far as just going out there and running really, really fast times and building and growing. It’s been really cool to see.”

For Michon, it was really cool to medal.

“I was very happy to finish the end of my high school career with a great performance and a medal,” he said. “Medalling at Meet of Champs is a goal I set for myself at the end of each season.”

What’s interesting about Michon is that he was ahead of the game when he first went out for cross country. Hutchinson did not see him until he came out for track in the winter, but immediately noticed something rare about Michon. While many distance runners are somewhat gawky as freshmen as they go through growth spurts, Michon had it together.

“He was very polished when came in which is something you don’t usually see from a freshman,” Hutchinson said. “You usually have to break down their form, build them back up and things like that. He just had a very fluid, smooth, natural running style.”

And it just kept getting smoother.

“That’s one of the things that really kind of stands out with him,” Hutchinson said. “He’s always very relaxed when he’s running. Sometimes when he’s a running a race, you’re like, ‘Why is he running so slow?’ He’s not. He’s actually really, really fast but he’s just so smooth in how he runs it doesn’t look like he’s going fast.”

It didn’t take long for Michon to decide that soccer was no longer his thing.

“I have loved running ever since my first cross-country season,” he said. “I really enjoyed being part of the team, and I’m drawn to the competitiveness in the sport, which is like no other sport.”

Michon first got to his first MOC as a sophomore when Robbinsville’s cross country team made it as a team. He also got through in the 800 as a sophomore.

This past winter, he took fifth in the 1600 in 4:16.15 at the Meet of Champions after finishing third in the Group II meet and first in Central Jersey in 4:25.10.

“Our whole senior class have been rocks for us,” Hutchinson said. “Zach is a guy you could particularly see had a lot of potential and a lot of talent. Just to see him grow and develop over the last few years has been a lot of fun to watch.”

Two of Michon’s biggest improvements have been in racing strategy and workouts.

“Those first couple years, those big races, you could see him wide-eyed a couple times and things like that,” Hutchinson said. “To see him mature and grow and put it all together his senior year, where he’s going out there to Meet of Champs and running with the best in the state, it’s great to see that development.”

Michon has made huge strides in his speed, particularly at the tail end of the spring season when his kick made a difference in some races.

“We’ve thrown him in the 400 every once in a while to get him acclimated to finishing off his races,” Hutchinson said. “The way he finished groups and the Meet of Champs, he was really closing fast.

“It was nice to see the confidence he had at the end of the race with his speed. He not only developed that, but the confidence at the end of the race to know ‘OK, I have something left in the tank, let’s go after it,’ It’s something you have to develop in distance runners and something he really took to at the end of races.”

Michon was unhappy with his time of 4:20 at the Mercer County Meet, as he hoped to be below that time by then.

“But I wasn’t too worried because I had been training very hard with the focus on peaking and running fast at states and Meet of Champs,” he said. “My strategy for the 1600 at Meet of Champs was to stay with the leaders, and be up front for the whole race. I was very happy the way the race played out, and I knew if I stayed up with the other top runners I would run a good time.

“I am always prepared to run hard. Staying confident in my ability helps me maintain contact with the front pack, and even with such a fast race, strategically I ran my best race.”

Michon’s career is hardly over, as he has committed to run track and cross country at St. Joseph’s next year. The Hawks are the defending Atlantic 10 cross country champions and also have a strong track program.

Before he moves on, however, Michon had a word of thanks for those who helped him the past four years.

“My coaches and my teammates have had a huge influence on me,” he said. “They encourage, support, and push me to get better. This has been such a great experience for me, and I have many great memories running at Robbinsville High.”

And if he couldn’t get a refund on those soccer spikes, then so be it.