Courtesy Photo- Jason Saltmarsh
Zou runs up the hill by the football field during a meet held at Winnacunnet.
After doing cross country at Hampton Academy since seventh grade, senior Ken Zou has committed to running D2 cross country at Saint Michael’s College in Colchester, Vermont. Zou said that as a young kid he initially didn’t even think that he was going to participate in cross country.
“.. At first I didn’t think I was good enough to run long distance so I started with track in sixth grade,” Zou said.
He credits one of his middle school cross country coaches as the one who really got him into doing long distance running.
Zou added that when he got to high school he started to really enjoy cross country even more.
“At first, I just did it for fun, but then as I got into high school the competitiveness made it even more fun for me in general and then soon I actually just enjoyed running after that,” Zou said.
Zou has been running cross country and track at WHS since freshman year and has been a varsity runner in cross country since he was a sophomore in 2020. Zou finished second for the Winnacunnet boys cross country team and 53rd overall at the D1 State Championship meet in 2021.
“Ken is a really good runner, he’s one of our top varsity runners on the team and has been for the last few years,” said cross country and track and field coach Jason Saltmarsh. “Ken is probably one of the hardest working athletes that I’ve coached in recent years. Just as an example, we’ll do workouts on the track this season, his senior season, and it’s very common to see Ken collapse on the ground, completely out of breath and sweaty, just giving it his all in every workout, which is really contagious because the other guys feed off of that and they follow Ken’s lead.”
Saltmarsh added that besides being a varsity runner, Zou’s personality is something that made him really memorable as an athlete on the team.
“When I think about Ken on the team, what really stands out is the fact that he’s friendly with everybody, and especially the younger runners,” Saltmarsh said. “He kind of mentors them, pulls them along, and supports them and he’s a really good teammate.”
Senior Peyton Saltmarsh said that he has been doing cross country with Zou for all four years and they’ve gotten to know each other well.
“He’s really respectful and listens to the coaches and helps out the freshmen,” Peyton Saltmarsh said. “He gets to know them really well in the summer and throughout the whole season he’s there to be a good leader for them.”
Peyton Saltmarsh added that Zou is always respectful at meets and practices and he “has set a good team image.”
Zou said that Saint Michael’s was a perfect fit for him because he plans on majoring in chemistry.
“Saint Mike’s fitted everything that I liked in general, it wasn’t too big, it was the perfect size,” Zou said. “It fitted my major a lot because they’re more hands-on for undergrads…I know in some universities you need to be a graduate student to use the equipment but Saint Mike’s allows you to be an undergrad and use the instruments as well.”
Zou said that he is really going to miss being a part of the cross country team at Winnacunnet.
“I would say I would probably miss the team atmosphere at the high school,” Zou said. “Even though it was competitive at times, there were a lot of moments where it’s actually not as competitive as people would think it would be, it’s actually more fun with your teammates. I would [also] probably miss a bunch of the underclassmen after this year.”
Jason Saltmarsh added that Zou will be missed by the cross country team as the seniors have grown to be strong leaders.
“He’s another successful athlete that’s come out of our Winnacunnet program, and we’re really proud of Ken,” Jason Saltmarsh said. “Ken’s one of those guys who brings a good sense of humor and also a really good work ethic to practices, so I know that he’s going to be successful at Saint Mike’s.”