Before the 2023 track and field season comes to a close, Montezuma-Cortez High School might need a new record board.
Certainly, if Zander Cruzan has any say in the matter.
The Panthers sprinting savant became the latest in a string of M-CHS athletes to sign with a college track and field program, as Cruzan inked his commitment to the University of Northern Colorado.
Boasting a résumé that will put him down as one of the best sprinters in history for Southwest Colorado, Cruzan now looks forward to vying for state supremacy in the 3A track scene this spring, as well as making waves in the Big Sky Conference for the UNC Bears in 2023-24.
“After I got to Greeley, and got to meet the staff and diverse culture of athletes,” said Cruzan, “I could see myself in that environment, to grow and succeed academically and athletically.”
Cruzan electrified the state field as a junior, posting the fourth-fastest time in the 100-meter dash from all classifications en route to a third-place finish in the 3A field. He matched the placement in the 200-meter race, while continuing to edge nearer to M-CHS’ long-standing school records in both events.
Breaking 11 seconds in the 100 (10.78 personal best) and 22 seconds in the 200 (21.76 personal best) places him in rare company in Colorado heading into his final season for the Panthers.
It’s been the intangible elements of his growth, according to longtime M-CHS track and field head coach Bob Archibeque, that have made Cruzan such a special talent.
“He’s a role model both on the field, and he’s a great mentor for the younger kids, encouraging them, helping provide guidance,” said Archibeque. “He’s both hungry and humble, and you can’t ask for anything more as a coach.”
Cruzan’s big jump came in sophomore year, as he started to find his niche in the athletic scene. “At the time, I didn’t realize I would be good in these sports, but having incredible coaches (Archibeque in track and field, Ivan Mack in football) who have helped push me to be my best, it makes me want to keep doing this as long as I can.”
While Cruzan possesses plenty of talent, Archibeque recognizes the extra components that his senior puts in to take him to an elite level.
“His weight room work ethic is incredible, to go along with all the effort he put into the offseason,” added Archibeque, alluding to Cruzan’s high-caliber indoor meets this winter. “And he uses all of those pieces to help him get to bigger and better places.”
Cruzan also featured prominently on the Panthers football team, serving as a big-play threat at wide receiver and shutdown defensive back for a team that advanced to the state semifinals for the first time since the 1950s.
“Family’s been the biggest part in all of this,” said Cruzan, thinking of both his personal family, as well as his M-CHS team, “and so I’m wanting to be there for the team, not just to better myself, but to better them as well.”
With a bigger picture mindset, Cruzan’s completion of his M-CHS career this spring, along with the journey ahead make the sports experience more than just about times and places.
“It’s about building character,” added Cruzan, “and about making you a better person in the world.”