Among the legendary distance runners from Flathead High, Zach Perrin is in a league of his own after last weekend.
The Flathead junior ran the fastest 3,200 ever for a high schooler from Montana.
Perrin clocked 8:55.24 at the Arcadia Invitational track meet on Saturday in Los Angeles, Calif. He placed eighth out of 34 runners in a race that annually features the top runners from around the country. Sixteen kids broke nine minutes, and the winner finished in 8:47.75.
Perrin’s time holds the distinction of being the fastest on record for a Montana prep. Flathead’s Kevin Clary owned the previous best, 9:07.58, which he set as a senior at Arcadia in 2000.
Paul Jorgensen, the longtime and nationally recognized distance coach at Flathead, said Perrin has officially joined the tier of elite Brave runners before him.
“He’s definitely moved up to the next level,” Jorgensen said.
To put his race in perspective, Perrin’s mile splits in California were not much slower than the individual mile time he ran last year at the state meet. Perrin placed second in the 1,600 with 4:23.05 in Butte last year. At Arcadia, his first mile was roughly 4:33 and his second was near 4:27, Jorgensen said.
“I knew he was ready to go. He had a really good winter of training,” Jorgensen said. “I thought he could break nine minutes. But I didn’t quite expect 8:55.”
Flathead High is now home to four of the six fastest 3,200 times for boys in state history. Seth Watkins holds the AA state record, 9:16.18, which he set in 2001. Gordon Ruttenbur from Deer Lodge holds the all-class record of 9:13.30 set in 1982.
Perrin will have a tougher time setting a state record this year because the championship meet is in Butte, where higher elevation hampers distance runners.
Still, Jorgensen believes if anyone can beat a state record at 5,500 feet, it’s Perrin.
“Very few distance records fall in Butte, but I think he’s at the level now where he can break a state record,” Jorgensen said.
Glacier junior Troy Fraley placed 30th at Arcadia with a time of 9:26.78.
Fraley and Perrin were the first Kalispell runners invited to compete at Arcadia since 2001, a year that had another state milestone set by a Flathead runner. David Vidal ran the fastest 1,600 ever for a Montanan that year, clocking 4:10.56. Vidal went on to set the all-class state record of 4:13.29 that spring in Great Falls.
Perrin has consistently been one of the best distance runners in the state since he was a freshman. He won the state title in the 3,200 his first year. Last spring he placed second in both the 1,600 and 3,200. In the fall he took second in cross country.
The current track season is still very young, but Perrin is racing in top form. Jorgensen saw a preview of the legendary Arcadia race recently during a personal time trial at Legends Stadium. Perrin ran an 800 in 1:55. That performance would have won the state championship in AA last year and was the third fastest ever for a Brave runner.
“He worked real hard over the winter and logged a lot of miles,” Jorgensen said. “He’s just motivated right now.”
Perrin’s historic race at Arcadia can be seen online.
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