When Daniel Ziems was in sixth grade, Nick Meis knew he was going to be a great runner.
The Palo Verde senior proved Meis right by winning the cross country region title in November. Ziems completed the clean sweep of Sunset Region distance events Saturday at Foothill by winning the boys 1,600-meter run with a school-record time of 4 minutes, 21.40 seconds.
He won the 3,200 run last week in 9:52.11.
“I had him as a sixth-grader in P.E. over at Rogich Middle School, so it’s something I knew was coming along,” said Meis, the Panthers’ boys cross country coach. “He had the heart.”
For Ziems, the three distance titles came at the best time. He never placed better than third in either the 1,600 run or 3,200 run before this season, though he did win the region cross country title as a junior.
“I didn’t think I had all that in me,” Ziems said of his 2016-17 hat trick. “It’s been a really big honor to race against people that push me and are also so friendly. To be able to see myself grow this much has been really an amazing thing.”
Ziems won the 1,600 Saturday by almost 10 seconds, but he didn’t control the race from start to finish. He actually trailed near the 1,000-meter mark, but Palo Verde distance coach Robert Davis said that was part of the plan.
Ziems has such good endurance, Davis likes to have Ziems keep his pace throughout the race, as opposed to sprinting early on to grab a lead.
“Part of what we talk about is to use speed at the right time,” Davis said. “Let’s settle it at the end and bring our best speed and not waste it early on in the race.”
Durango’s Frankie Bisacky finished second with a time of 4:27.49. Ian Jackson of Arbor View, who led for the first half of the race, was third in 4:32.09.
Ziems said the Sunset Region distance runners have their own sort of fraternity. He said he’s friends with a lot of them, and they got together in a huddle after the race to congratulate each other.
“It’s really a great community of people,” Ziems said.
Ziems is determined to have his performance at the state track meet go better than his state cross country run. After winning the Sunset Region title, he placed ninth at the Class 4A state cross country meet. He called it a “weird week” leading up to the state meet, and said he was feeling under the weather.
This time, he’s ready. And he’s ready to cap an already storied career with the one piece of hardware he still needs to complete his collection: a state championship.
“I’m excited to race everyone that I know so well here,” Ziems said. “I feel very confident about how I’m going to do.”
Palo Verde finished sixth as a team with 60 points. Centennial was first with 147½ points, Bishop Gorman was second (87½) and Arbor View (77½) was third.
Centennial dominated the girls side with 270½ points. Palo Verde and Arbor View finished second and third with 77 and 76 points, respectively.