The COVID-19 pandemic was life altering for most people. For Napoleon senior Zak Schroeder, the pandemic was a time for self-reflection and an opportunity to change his path.
Coming out of the pandemic, Schroeder re-dedicated himself to the two sports he loved — golf and track and field — and he committed himself to doing better as a whole.
“I just looked in the mirror, into what I wanted to see, and I decided to change it, and I have never looked back,” said Schroeder. “And after looking at myself, I woke up every day just trying to mold myself into the person I wanted to be in the future. So far, I feel like I’ve been doing just that. Whether it’s in sports, whether it’s education, whether it’s spiritually, I feel like that I’m completing what I’ve started so far.”
It began with golf.
Schroeder began working on his game, alignment issues and getting further off the tee.
“He puts in more work that any high school golfer I have ever seen,” said Napoleon boys golf coach Casten Reed. “He has that Kobe Bryant, Mamba-type attitude going on.”
The extra work paid off when Schroeder made second-team All-Northern Lakes League in the fall.
But it wasn’t just on the course where his coaches and teammates could see a change in Schroeder. It was his demeanor with his compatriots.
“He was so aggressive that he wanted to beat his teammates,” said Reed. “After COVID something changed and he wanted to be a leader. He started helping the younger players. He really matured.”
After the golf season, Schroeder began going to some indoor track and field meets, finally recruiting some others to join him. With Landin Wiechers, Zach Moll and Hayes Bingham, the group qualified for the State Indoor Track and Field Championships in both the 4x200 and 4x400 relays.
“I had just got the job. They really went out by themselves and did that on their own,” said first-year Napoleon boys track and field coach Kenny Bostelman. “I think (Zak) likes being part of group. Not only is he a good leader, he feeds off the other guys’ energy.”
“I just like the relays because it’s a team-based event,” said Schroeder. “Track is most of the time a lot individual stuff, but I like taking a few people from the team and trying to either lead them, or trying to stick with the leader and find some type of way to win. Whether it’s in the first leg, second leg, third, whatever, I just liked the team aspect of relays.”
Along with running in several relay events for the Wildcats this spring, Schroeder has also run in the 200 and 400 and competed in the long jump.
“He is a very coachable kid,” said Bostelman. “You ask him to do something, he’s going to do it. A couple of meets we have needed him to run some other events and he was like, ‘Yep, I’ll do it.’ He is a very versatile kid for us.”
Schroeder said his favorite distance to run is the 400.
“I feel like I am quick, but I need a bit more distance to get up and running,” he said. “I feel like I am more versatile in the 200 and 400.”
Those are the two relays (4x200, 4x400) Schroeder hopes to help take to the State Championships in Columbus in June.
“That’s our number one goal, but as of right now we’re just taking it a day at a time,” said Schroeder.
“He’s a quiet kid,” said Bostelman. “He doesn’t say too much, but when he does it is usually spot on. He doesn’t get rattled, an even-keeled kid. I wish I had some more just like him.”
Schroeder’s transformation since looking in the mirror during the pandemic led him to sign a letter of intent to play both golf and track and field at Concordia University in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
“I knew I wanted to play golf in college,” said Schroeder. “I didn’t know if I could sneak track into that picture. I knew I wanted to do track also but I didn’t know if I could do that. After talking with all my coaches, they said that I could work it into indoor track, but outdoor track would be a little harder and more complex. So I decided to stick with indoor track. I’m just extremely thankful that I could do both of them because I just love both of them so much. I just couldn’t let go of one of them.”
“I have never met someone who is looking for information like he does,” said Reed. “He also has to be competing, whether he is golfing or just going to school. I am sure every day he is trying to beat someone to the front doors. I don’t think he could live doing one sport.”
A member of the National Honor Society, the son of Matt and Shawna Schroeder of Napoleon holds a 3.8 grade point average. Schroeder, who said he likes to hunt and fish in his free time, said he plans to study business with an emphasis on sports entertainment in college, where he can continue to work on being the best version of himself.