Rock Creek High School junior Logan Zabel has been all over the place recently. Whether that is on a winning state championship relay at Smith Center last spring, winning a state football title at Smith Center in the the fall to now transferring to Rock Creek and being a part of both the baseball and track team this spring.
It's not everyday you see a high school athlete with the ability to even play both or permission from the school to compete in two spring sports at the same time. Smith Center High School does not offer baseball so Zabel decided if he wanted to play baseball, which he possibly wants to do at the next level, that he would transfer to Rock Creek where he enrolled this January.
Now comes the complicated part. Zabel qualified in the 400 meter dash in 4A and will have his prelim race on Friday at 10:45 am, while he also is a member of the 4A-II Rock Creek Mustang baseball team who open up the 4A-II state tournament in Salina on Thursday evening, the night before. Luckily for Zabel he will be available for Rock Creek baseball on Thursday but will then head to Wichita Friday to try and qualify for the finals of the 400 meter dash that are ran on Saturday, which there is no baseball. If Rock Creek baseball wins Thursday evening they would play in a semifinal game at 1:15 pm on Friday. Salina and Wichita are rougly 90 miles from each other. In all likeliness, Zabel could be there a few minutes prior to semifinal game start time on Friday for baseball and if he did qualify for the finals in the 400 meters those wouldn't be ran until Saturday afternoon at 4:05 pm after baseball would be over. If Rock Creek got to a baseball title game it would be played on Friday evening at 5:45 pm or the third place game at 3:30 pm on Friday. Talk about cutting it close. Had the 4A, 5A, 6A sessions been the second session, where 1A, 2A, 3A is this year, of Friday at track then you would probably have to count Zabel out of competing in the state baseball tournaments semifnal and final. However, Rock Creek (20-2) has to get through traditional state power Bishop Ward (13-7) on Thursday in the first round game.
"The State Baseball tournament is on Thursday and Friday, while State Track is on Friday and Saturday. I plan to play in the baseball game on Thursday, and then go to Track on Friday. If we win Thursday and end up playing in the afternoon on Friday, then I will drive from Cessna Stadium in Wichita to Salina after prelims to play baseball, then hopefully head back to Wichita for finals on Saturday." Zabel said.
Zabel is just in his first season of high school baseball and plays on a loaded high school squad in Rock Creek (20-2), a team that has had a lot of baseball success in a very good baseball league. As a part time starter this year he has a .462 on base percentage hitting .263 and has also stolen nine bases in limited action. Zabel has a lot of room to grow as he continues to learn the game in the high school ranks but does feature a 6.6 sixty time and 34.5 inch vertical. He has played right field, center field and left field. Rock Creek also features one of the best players in Kansas in senior Carson Zenger on the baseball squad.
Although Zabel isn't putting up eye opening numbers in his first year of baseball, it's impressive to multi-task two sports this time of year, but where he really excels is the track. He has a 50.05 time in the 400 meters, breaking the Rock Creek school record in his first season there. There are six guys between 49-50.1 seconds in the field of the 4A boys 400 meter dash in 2018, all of which could win a state title. Zabel is a three time league champion, regional champion, four-time state qualifier, three-time state placer and a one time state champion in the 4x400 at Smith Center.
Zabel is no stranger to state titles as we mentioned earlier. He was part of the 2A 4x400 meter relay at Smith Center as a sophomore last spring that won a state title in the event. He was also a member of the Smith Center football team, a tradtional power in Kansas, that claimed the 2017 2-1A state football championship. He chipped in 27 tackles, two sacks and an interception. SC dominated most of everyone they beat last season, including a 43-7 blowout of St. Mary's Colgan in the title game.
Zabel will be a really busy athlete this week and weekend, hopefully, and will look to help Rock Creek bring home some hardware. We caught up with the multiple sport junior below in the latest edition of Faces in Kansas.
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How did you get involved with sports and what all sports do you play?
Before I was two years old, I had my first set of golf clubs that were given me from my father. When I was in Elementary school, all of my friends came over EVERY DAY after school and played “pickup” football. I play football, basketball, track, and baseball. My freshman year I doubled up on track and golf, however it was not allowed my sophomore year of high school.
What were your goals and expectations this school year and how has that turned out so far?
My main goals this spring were/are to win league championships in both track and baseball, because I know not many athletes can say that. Having won two in track, but being league runner-up in baseball was a bitter-sweet feeling. With that being said, making it to the State baseball tournament in 4A-II and making the State track meet in the 400m make up for it. My ultimate goal this year is to win a championship in baseball and to be a top 3 placer at the state track meet.
Tell us about the transfer how that happened and why?
My transfer was largely influenced on my interest in playing more baseball. I had played all summer on a traveling team from Kansas City, and all of them played could not believe I had never played High School ball before. I was jealous that they got to play my favorite game as a high school sport. Being a professional baseball player was my childhood dream for a long time and my family was gracious enough help me transfer to Rock Creek High School.
What is it like to play for your coaches?
I love all of the coaches that I have. They are my greatest mentors, teachers, and supporters (after my family of course). They do a lot of stuff behind the scenes, such as in the weight room and practice field. They always push me to my limit which builds both my ability and my character, which I am truly grateful for.
What is Rock Creek like as a school?
Rock Creek High School is an amazing experience. The teachers, students, and community have been very open and has let me into their family. We students are faced with many academic challenges every day, yet many of us succeed in the classroom. The atmosphere during sports and during school is amazing and should not be taken for granted.
How awesome was it to win a relay at state in track last year and then as a team in football this fall?
It felt amazing. Not every athlete gets to compete in the nation’s biggest track meet, so finishing on top of the podium as a sophomore alongside my hard working teammates was priceless. Capturing a State Championship in football felt great because it proved that we could do some amazing things in many sports, and a lot of people knew it.
What is it like to be a multiple sport athlete, what all sports do you play?
It has many challenges, especially during the spring when I play both baseball and do track. A lot of school is missed due to being gone for activities which makes for a lot of late nights of studying. This does not account for trying to practice for both sports at the same time! I never missed baseball practice unless I was gone for a track meet. I make sure that I stay healthy year round, which helps me keep up my energy. I would recommend others to try multiple sports, if given the chance. I play football, basketball, baseball, and track. I am also a former golfer.
What style of player are you, what are your strengths and weaknesses?
My strength is I work well with others. I love playing sports because I get to work with my friends. Playing sports is my free time. It is valuable time I get to cherish with my teammates. I love being the one that is relied on. My weakness is my low experience in the sport of baseball. Playing baseball in a small town in Kansas is very hard because High School Baseball is rarely offered. However, practicing year round the past two years has increased my ability. Right now, I'm putting the parts together and the progress has been outstanding.
Being recruited by anyone and plans at the next level?
Currently I have no official offers from any colleges for the sport of baseball. Playing baseball all summer has gotten me a lot of exposure to schools, as some have sparked interest. Coaches from Division 1 schools all the way down to high school have told me my strengths and weaknesses in my game, which I try to improve on every day. In track, I have gotten letters and emails to meet staff and to fill out questionnaires about my attributes and personal information, from multiple colleges, both inside and outside the state of Kansas. My goal is to play either baseball or participate in track in college.
Other key players on your teams this year?
I have a lot of teammates that are great, but I can definitely narrow it down to two people. On my baseball team, my teammate Carson Zenger (senior) is the definition of a winner. He puts in a lot of hours, which shows why he is 4A-II POY. Another person that comes to mind is my teammate Taybor Vetter (sophomore). He is another person that puts in a lot of extra hours, especially working out in the weight room. We are workout partners and we push each other every day. He is not the type of guy to take anything off. I am extremely happy that I compete and play with these guys on a daily basis.
Best athlete you’ve ever faced?
The best athlete that I have faced is Noah Smith, from Beloit, Kansas. Several years ago, he passed away in a car accident, but I will never forget his athleticism. He was a class above me, and he was by far the best pitcher I had faced at the time. He was in the same boat I was in, he did not exactly have baseball as a resource to him, like kids who are from bigger areas.However, he was on another level than anyone in the league, which inspired me to get better. His athletic ability went beyond that. My freshman year we played against him in a JV basketball game and he threw down a dunk. It was awing to watch a sophomore rise up like that.
What’s it like to grow up in your town or the towns you’ve lived in?
To grow up in a small town in Kansas is by no means a bad thing. It is very easy to stay out of trouble, and it is an experience that most people do not get to have. I believe that growing up in a small town has shaped me into the person I am today, as my morals are still the same. Going to Rock Creek is a similar experience to living in Smith Center, as most of the kids and adults in the community are hard working and humble people.
Favorite subject in school?
I personally enjoy science classes in school. As an athlete, I love learning how things work together, especially when it involves humanly functions. All my questions on how and why our bodies do things are answered. I believe that science classes actually help athletes learn more about themselves which is essential for growth in ability.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
In 10 years I will hopefully be going to school to become an Orthodontist. That is the job that I wish to pursue in the future.
Best place to eat in your surrounding area?
A small restaurant in Manhattan, Kansas called Mr. K’s is definitely one of my favorites. They serve cookie-bake deserts that are to die for! I would recommend it to everyone. I also love eating at Taco Lucha in Manhattan, Kansas; it is my favorite Mexican restaurant.
How will you balance state baseball and state track?
The State Baseball tournament is on Thursday and Friday, while State Track is on Friday and Saturday. I plan to play in the baseball game on Thursday, and then go to Track on Friday. If we win Thursday and end up playing in the afternoon on Friday, then I will drive from Cessna Stadium in Wichita to Salina after prelims to play baseball (then hopefully head back to Wichita for finals on Saturday).
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