Switching from baseball to track a solid decision for Antioch's Grindley
It's May 2018, hours before the start of the Northern Lake County Conference boys track and field meet. Antioch coach Chris Bailey needs to fill a hole in his lineup.
One of his high jumpers is injured.
Bailey spots Zach Grindley in a hallway at school. Grindley, then a junior, is a first-year trackster and former Sequoits baseball player. The rookie has competed in the long jump, in the 100-meter dash, in the 4x100 relay.
"Never," Grindley, more than a year later, recalls.
Bailey hands his phone to Grindley in that hallway and tells him to watch a video of a famous high jumper jumping. Grindley watches -- no, studies -- the footage, having been told he would be Antioch's void filler in the high jump later that day.
"I looked at another video at school, and then I viewed more videos of high jumpers on the way to the meet," Grindley says of the sporadic cram session. "My coaches were hoping I'd be able to get points for the team in the high jump."
Grindley got third-place points with a clearance of 5-feet-8.
It's May 2019, at another track meet, this one more prestigious than the NLCC gathering, this one the Class 3A state meet in Charleston. Grindley again finishes third in the high jump. The 6-foot-5, 165-pound senior had soared cleanly over a bar resting exactly 6 feet, 5 inches above the ground.
From oh-so-green high jumper to state high jump bronze medalist in … 54 weeks.
"A phenomenal athlete," Bailey says of Grindley, the Daily Herald Lake County Male Athlete of the Year for 2018-19.
"Zach is extremely fast, with ridiculous explosiveness as a jumper. (Sequoits football coach and assistant boys track coach) Brian Glashagel and I had been trying to get Zach to come out for track. I'd see Zach in a hallway at school and tell him, 'You have a future in track.' I'd also tell him, 'There's a spot for you on the team if baseball doesn't work out for you.' "
The left-handed Grindley -- a Lakeside Legends youth pitcher/outfielder before becoming a tall, lean hurler with a 75-mph fastball for Antioch's under-level baseball squads -- chose to store his baseball bat for good and handle a relay baton for the first time two springs ago.
David Grindley (a former three-sport athlete at Antioch) was convinced his son (with Antioch alumna Nancy, a former Rutgers gymnast) had a future in college baseball.
"Had a long talk with my dad about my big decision," says Grindley, who also was a record-setting wideout in football and a two-year varsity basketball player. "The talk lasted several days. But my dad ended up loving track and field, loved attending our meets. He was happy at meets."
David's son, whose easygoing nature belies his resolute competitiveness in sports, had nine reasons to smile during an astoundingly successful stretch of three meets last month. Grindley won the long jump, the high jump and the triple jump at the Lake County meet. Eight days later he won all three jumps at his second NLCC get-together, setting meet marks in the long jump (22-9, also a school record) and the triple jump (45-4).
One week later, at a sectional, Grindley went 22-3 in the long jump, 6-5 in the high jump and 44-3 in the triple jump. First place, first place, first place.
The former baseball player had earned the Triple Crown in jumps.
"I'd never seen that, never even heard of that," Bailey says.
It'll be hard to forget what Grindley did on a football field last September. Grindley came down with 4 receptions (3 TDs) and amassed a program-record 203 receiving yards in a 49-13 defeat of Wauconda.
"Long arms, big hands and great hands, with tremendous speed," Glashagel says of Grindley, who intends to major in premed and jump at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. "Here's the thing, the exciting thing, about Zach, the track athlete -- he's still raw, still figuring things out in the sport. UW-La Crosse is a men's track powerhouse, and I have no doubt he'll flourish up there."