LIBERTY — Named best in Missouri at age 14, Zach Grace will be an Eagle to watch this coming track and field season at Liberty North High School.

“I thought I would rank high,” Grace said about ranking first in discus. “It felt pretty nice, to be first in the state. That is kind of crazy.”

As an eighth-grader, Grace was judged based on his record rather than actually competing at a state competition. He said he practiced a lot and worked hard, but was a bit surprised to see he ranked No. 1 in his age group.

That is only his most recent accomplishment. Since he started three years ago, Grace has been recognized every year he’s competed. When he was 13, Grace placed 10th in Amateur Athletic Union Nationals. The year before that, he got a medal for placing sixth in the USA Track & Field Junior Olympics national competition.

His dad, David Grace, said to qualify for nationals, athletes have a few bars to reach. Zach competed in districts, qualifying for regionals by placing in the top 16. Qualify for nationals, he placed in the top 6 at regionals. Then, to achieve a medal, he ranked in the top eight at Junior Olympics.

Though he is showing a string of success, Zach said he didn’t like discus at first. When he saw how good he was getting, he said it got a lot more fun and he decided it was the sport for him. Now he trains twice a week with KC FIRE Track Club in addition to training with the Big Beefers of Liberty North.

“Sometimes I go to the community center to lift weights,” he added.

David said where some people do family sports like swimming or baseball during the summer, he and his son enjoy track together.

“That is what we do,” he said.

Zach said his father inspired him. Now that he’s been doing it for a few years and shown some success, Zach has big dreams for discus.

“By the end of the summer I’m hoping to hit 165 feet,” Zach said. “The best throw in the nation right now is 156 and I threw a 147. If I continue to train really hard, I might be able to reach 160, 165.”

Zach said he will be trying-out for the Eagles this fall.

Northwest Editor Sean Roberts can be reached at sean.roberts@mycouriertribune.com or 389-6606.

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