June 19, 2018

A Jump Into The Record Book: Zack Bazile, NCAA Long Jump Champion

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A leap of 27 feet, five and a half inches was what it took to win the NCAA title in the long jump for Ohio State track & field senior Zack Bazile.

How long is 27 feet and five and a half inches? It’s about as long as London double-decker bus. As tall as a giraffe. Almost as tall as a telephone pole. Bazile could pretty much leap to a first down on the football field.

It’s also good enough for the school record, as Bazile, a native of Montvale, N.J., etches himself deeper into the program history books. The 27-5.5 mark breaks the mark set by Michael Hartfield in 2013 at 26-9.00, and the record before that was held by the legendary Jesse Owens with a distance of 26-8.25. With Hartfield as an alternate on the 2016 Olympic team, and Owens a four-time Olympic gold medalist, Bazile is certainly in good company.

“It’s been a goal of mine since I was a freshman to jump a wind-legal 27 feet,” Bazile said. “Finally hitting it isn’t something I expected to achieve, so part of me feels like that’s why it hasn’t sunken in yet. I’m surprised, but I was definitely happy that I ended my career on such a good note, especially at Nationals and on that stage.”

 

Any track fan will tell you that the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships are something special, but this year was a meet that will go down in history for both the NCAA and Ohio State alike. It’s a meet where the nation’s most elite Division I athletes are on display, but also the city of Eugene, Ore., affectionately known as “Tracktown” for its dedication to the sport. Part of that dedication comes from the Historic Hayward Field, a stadium built to showcase the incredible events that take place during a track meet. The 2018 Outdoor Track & Field Championships served as the last meet to be held at the current Hayward Field, as renovations will not only improve the facility, but create a new stadium from scratch.

As to be expected, a chance to compete at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Eugene brings out a little something extra in the nation’s best athletes, like a new personal best for a Buckeye long jumper.

“When I saw 27 feet, it was a relief that I finally achieved what I wanted to do since my freshman year,” Bazile said. “I was more relieved that it was wind-legal, so I was definitely happy, but I believe that I controlled my emotions well because I was still there to handle the business.”

Bazile was all business across all four days of the meet. His four best jumps in the series won him the national title four times over, also jumping over 26 feet on three other attempts. The second-place jump was 26 feet and three inches. There was more than a foot between Bazile and the rest of the competition.

"Going into the competition, I knew I had to warm-up well,” Bazile explained. “I had to prepare my mind to go out with a bang. The first jump, I attacked the board aggressively and hopped 8.17m. I knew from there that I was on a roll so I had to keep rolling with it. The second jump came even harder and I jumped 27-5.5 and from there on, I believed it was going to be a great meet, and it was."

Before his historic long jump, Bazile ran on the 4x100m relay team in the preliminary round with freshman Eric Harrison Jr., senior Duan Asemota and senior Drelan Bramwell. Going into the event as the program record holders, the quartet improved their hold on first all-time in program history with a brisk lap around the track in 38.67 seconds.

Bazile credits his spectacular senior year in part from being integrated into both the jump squad and the sprint squad, and from the wisdom and understanding imparted to him from the Ohio State coaching staff.

“I had a jumps coach, Brian Brillon, for the past three years. This year, he left the program. He was a great guy. He laid down a great foundation for me,” Bazile said. “Starting this year, I had (associate head coach) Rosalind Joseph as my jumps coach and (assistant coach) Joel Brown as my sprint coach. So, I definitely believe that working with the sprints and having Coach Joseph, two different programs, helped. They understood and worked with me well. That definitely played a big part of jumping 27 feet and having such a great senior year.”

It wasn’t an easy road, and it wasn’t something that Bazile ever saw himself accomplishing. Not only is Bazile now the best long jumper in Ohio State history, he’s also part of the best 4x100m relay group and No. 2 all-time in the 100m dash, behind the one and only Jesse Owens. Combining sprints and jumps created a recipe for success that helped everything fall into place for Bazile.

“I’m very thankful for the foundation that Brian Billon laid down for me. We had a chat that night, and I told him that I couldn’t have done it without him. Coach Joseph is more like my caretaker than she is my coach. The relationship we have is truly unique and special. She’s the first female coach that I’ve ever had besides Coach Karen (Dennis). I’m so thankful for the support from Coach Karen over the years. When I was a freshman, I was recruited under a different head coach at the time. She looked out for me over the past four years and with all the setbacks and issues I have dealt with, she never gave up on me. I believe I owe her for that, and I’m proud that it displayed this senior year and at Nationals.

Coach Joel (Brown), personality-wise, he’s more similar to me than anybody else on this team. For him, being willing to take me in and work with me even though I might see or approach things differently than the other athletes, it definitely paid off. I respect him a lot and owe him a lot as well. They all played a big part in my life and taking me toward a new place in the future. There’s much appreciation to Coach Joseph, Coach Brown, Coach Karen, Coach Brillon, and as always, our trainers, Coach Anthony Glass and my teammates.”

After the trophy was in his hands for the long jump, Bazile still had one last event left in the Scarlet and Gray. Qualifying on their incredible time of 38.67, the 4x100m relay appeared as the only team from the Big Ten in the final race. Running in lane eight, meaning they were unable to see the progress of the other competitors, the foursome finished as the national runner-up with a time of 38.75. The University of Houston, the national champion, set a collegiate, meet and facility record by clocking in at 38.17.

“The 4×1 is a great group of guys, with Eric Harrison leading off, Duan Asemota on the second leg, Drelan Bramwell on third leg and me anchoring it,” Bazile said. “That 4×1 team is something special. We’re the school record holders. Going into the prelim day, we had a baton exchange mishap, and on final day we were trying to instill in ourselves that we were trying to get these sticks right especially since we were running blind. The focus was clean exchanges and run hard. I believe we did that, but Houston just had something that we hadn’t seen before. Much respect to them, but it is still bittersweet that we got second. We got there and we did our best.”

Leading the Ohio State men’s track & field team to its best finish at the NCAA Track & Field Championships since 2004, Bazile also played a key role in helping the unit to a sweep of the indoor and outdoor conference titles, something that had not been accomplished since 1993. After his performance at Nationals, Bazile was unveiled as the Big Ten Outdoor Field Athlete of the Year. The team earned one laurel after another, with Coach Dennis receiving indoor and outdoor Big Ten Men’s Coach of the Year and United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) Great Lakes Regional Men’s Coach of the Year. Coach Joseph received USTFCCCA Men’s Assistant Coach of the Year. Harrison took home Men’s Outdoor Freshman of the Year. That’s just from the outdoor season. The indoor season list goes on similarly, including a sweep of the USTFCCCA Great Lakes Regional awards.

Bazile alone accounted for three Big Ten titles between the indoor and outdoor season, and three First Team All-America nods.

“It was truly different,” Bazile said. “This year, having two different coaches, I was truly integrated into this program. I bought in. This team, this past indoor and outdoor seasons were something special. We haven’t had a team like this since Joel Brown was here or the team 25 years ago. We’re definitely going to look back on it like ‘Wow, we really did it.’ I hope that this recognition that we’re receiving from the Big Ten Conference and the National level is telling these younger guys to give a chance to Ohio State. We might not have the resources or fancy things that SEC schools do, but we find a way to get things done. If you buy in, success will happen.”

As Bazile closes the book on his time donning Ohio State across his chest during track meets, he is someone the program likely won’t forget. Bazile is known for being a quiet leader, and as someone who did things a little outside of the box.

“My personality is definitely going to stand out,” Bazile said. “I want to be remembered as someone who was relentless and worked hard. Of course, hard-headed, but definitely a character.”

With the closing of one book comes the opening of another. The national recognition from his NCAA title and Top-12 outdoor long jump in the world this season has provided a springboard to the next step in Bazile’s career. His focus turns to USATF Outdoor Championships in Des Moines, Iowa, from June 21-24.

“Right now I’m talking to a couple agents and seeing what’s going to happen for the following year. My main focus is putting on another performance at USATF Championships and then taking it from there.”

There’s no leap of faith necessary to know that there’s more in store for Zack Bazile – just a leap into a long jump pit.