Former football recruit breaks records in track and field


John Begeman, Sports Reporter

His name is Sam Zenner, and much like his brother Zach, who is a NFL running back, he loves to run.  

While attending high school in Eagan, Minnesota, Zenner, a multi-talented athlete, earned nine varsity letters in swimming, football, track and field and baseball.

As a two-time all-conference pick in football, he was recruited by John Stiegelmeier and the South Dakota State football team as a running back, following in his brother’s footsteps.  

After redshirting his freshman year and beginning football practice in the summer, Zenner stepped away from the football team.

“Coach (Stiegelmeier) played a large role in my life, getting me out here and putting me in a position of success,” Zenner said. “I didn’t talk to him much about the decision, besides the day I told him I quit. He was there for me, understanding, and he met me on a personal level. He is a great role model, down to earth Christian guy that’s doing great things for SDSU football.”

As a sophomore in college, Zenner, an operations management major, found himself a regular student attending classes and creating videos in his free time.

“I was a free man, focusing on school,” Zenner stated. “I wasn’t even thinking about track at the time and had no contact with the coaches.”  

Zenner said that during his senior year of high school, SDSU head track and field coach Rod DeHaven approached him at a state track meet and opened the door to a potential commitment.

Little did Zenner know at the time that anything would ever come from a kind consideration amidst his football commitment, but three years later Zenner reached out to the coach.  

“I reached out to the sprint coaches and said, ‘I’m interested in running track and would like to set up a meeting to talk about what that would look like, no commitment just an interest,” Zenner said.  

An interest quickly turned into a commitment and Zenner found himself a student athlete again, trading his cleats for spikes.  

It didn’t take long for the multi-talented athlete to make his presence known on the track as he ran a school-record and career-best 6.84 in the finals of the 60m Jan. 21, 2017 at the Jim Emmerich Alumni Invite.

“He came out of the gates right away and did really well breaking our school record in the 60m,” DeHaven said. “Sam is very business-like in what he does, he is a bright young man, and a great teammate that lives a lifestyle that allows him to be very successful.”

Zenner said he was having fun and enjoying track for what it is, something he really appreciates.  

Progressing into the 2017 outdoor season Zenner continued to find success, recording a career best 21.38 in the 200m and ranking third all-time at SDSU heading into his second year of competition.  

“Year two was a struggle figuring out how to get faster. Track looks simple but the clock or the tape measure can be the toughest competition,” DeHaven said. “Other sports you prepare to compete against one team, but in track the stop watch brings the whole world into it.”

This season has been one for the books as Zenner has added the fourth-best 200m mark at (21.00) breaking teammate Colby Hilton’s school record by 0.41 seconds and his previous-best by 0.50 seconds. In addition, Zenner has already broke his personal best and school record in the 60m finals with a time of 6.77 seconds.  

“All records are in jeopardy outdoors this spring with the group of sprinters we have this year,” DeHaven said. “Midway through the season Zenner is on top of the Summit League in both the 60m and 200m indoor.”

Though Zenner continues to set personal best and breaks records, he isn’t done yet.  

When asked about goals for the season Zenner replied, “The only real measurable goal that I have, is to help the team win a conference championship this year.”

They will have their work cut out for them with a standout North Dakota State program in the conference, but if accomplished it would be the first indoor conference championship since 1991.  

Majoring in operations management Zenner plans on attending school for five years to use all of his athletic eligibility. Reflecting on his time running here at SDSU Zenner said, “Not much has changed in the way I do things, the way I practice or lift, but everything has changed in my mindset. To let go, and let Jesus live through me.”