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EUREKA — It has definitely been a wild four years for Eureka High School’s Zach Hare. From dealing with winning and losing seasons to a tornado that ripped through his community and the current COVID-19 pandemic that abruptly ended his career, it has been an up-and-down time for the senior.
Yet, despite all of that, he has remained focused and is prepared for the next step in his life as he will be playing football at Hutchinson Community College in the fall.
“Football has always been my go-to for anything in life,” Hare said. “It’s been my escape … the first thing I ever loved. I was probably around seven or eight when I knew I was ready to play under the lights on Friday. To make all of this possible, I’ve lost a lot of time and friends because, to make it this far, I had to be selfish in my own ways and stick to my regime. I’ve trained for about three years now. I knew I wanted to play college football after around my sophomore year after I got involved more in the offense and team overall. I’ve trained so hard to get to where I’ve been.”
Hare has been a four-year starter and team captain for the Tornadoes football team. During that time, he was a two-time All-Class 2A selection at wide receiver by The Wichita Eagle, The Topeka Capital-Journal, K-Preps and Sports in Kansas. In addition to playing wide receiver, he was also a contributor on defense at middle linebacker.
The senior also put his name in the Eureka record books in three different categories. He established career records with 2,061 receiving yards and 24 touchdowns, while also setting the single-season record for touchdowns with eight.
Although Hare experienced plenty of incredible moments in football, he also had to deal with the devastation from a tornado that ripped through the community on June 26, 2018. That twister not only caused damage in town but also destroyed the Tornadoes’ football field, forcing them to play the entire 2018 season on the road.
“It was extremely hard, but I’m a leader and I couldn’t let it affect me for long,” Hare said. “I had to bring my team together because a lot of people were scared to come out after that happened. I really felt for the seniors as they had no home games or homecoming. I know what they are feeling now with no graduation, or prom or spring sports. It hurts. But as life gives you these challenges, you can’t dwell for too long. You gotta just keep going. That’s what I’ve been doing.”
The Tornadoes did not have a home playing field they could use until midway through the 2019 season. That’s when they welcomed Fredonia to town for a Tri-Valley League game that was appropriately homecoming.
“We played three games away and finally got our home games,” Hare said. “The first game was homecoming, and it was amazing. We went out and dominated, and the other team called it off in the third. The cameras were there, and it was amazing to play in front of a huge crowd and win big in front of them.
“One of my favorite memories by far was I had a pretty crazy touchdown against them. The touchdown was fourth-and-16. I ran a wheel route and broke the corner really bad. I then scored the easiest touchdown I’ve ever had. I had over 100 yards and couple of touchdowns. The whole game was just so fun. To be a king candidate, then win player of the game and get nominated by Kansas Pregame for Player of the Week to Watch was crazy.”
Eureka had high hopes for the 2019 season. The Tornadoes didn’t disappoint, finishing the regular season at 5-3 with a Class 2A-District 5 championship. They advanced to the playoffs and took down Hutchinson-Trinity Catholic 31-6 in the opening round before suffering a 40-7 home loss to perennial state power Conway Springs in the regional round to close out a 6-4 campaign.
“For the team, after a great offseason in summer weights and the team camps, I expected a great season,” Hare said. “My class was really the cornerstone, if you will, of the boys sports. We had a great season, but I expected almost an undefeated season and maybe farther run in the playoffs. We had a great season.
“Individually, I set out to be the best teammate and player, and wanted to break the records that I have been working so hard to break. I achieved a lot of the expectations and didn’t get some of them, but you know how that goes. I’m still happy with how things went and hope nothing but the best to my underclassmen.”
Hare wrestled at Eureka during his freshman season, falling just short of a trip to the Class 3-2-1A State Tournament. But he had taken the winter season off each of the past three years. During the spring, though, he had competed in powerlifting and track … posting even more accomplishments.
Of course, he was unable to compete in those sports during his final season due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“When I found out about the cancellations, I was pretty heartbroken,” Hare said. “Sports have been my life forever, and this was my last opportunity to do something great in each of these sports. It was over, and I couldn’t do anything. I was devastated. Talking to my old teammates and coaches made it even more devastating. I was pretty upset, and I don’t really know if I’ve fully recovered yet.”
In powerlifting, he was a three-time Tri-Valley League champion and was the state champion at the 198-pound weight class. As a junior, he broke two state records in his weight class, including 285 pounds in the bench and a total weight of 975. He was hoping to break those records again this season as he had hit current marks of 350 pounds on bench and total weight of 1,100 pounds during his senior campaign.
“I love the weight room,” Hare said. “When I started lifting in ninth grade, I saw progress on the field, my body, and how much stronger and faster I was getting. The sport was so addictive. The weight room is where I’ve spent a large portion of my teenage years … hours and hours in the gym bettering myself. It’s a passion l have. Throughout the years, I’ve been bringing underclassman trying to accomplish what the upperclassman never tried with me.”
Hare was also a member of the EHS track team. He competed on the 4 x 100 relay squad that won several meets, including the Tri-Valley League championship. That group also took fourth place a year ago at regionals and was 11th at the Class 3A State Track and Field Championships in Wichita.
“I would have competed in the 100, 400 and 4 x 100,” Hare said. “We were on track to break the school record and arguably place in the top three. We had a real chance to win it all. I had expectations to win regionals and place at state in the other events.”
Despite having his senior season cut short, he has quickly turned his attention to the next level … recently signing a national letter-of-intent to play football at Hutchinson Community College.
“I had planned on playing at Emporia State, which was my mom’s school, but the scholarship got pulled for a transfer athlete,” Hare said. “So I kind of put everything there and neglected every other offer I received. Tate Omli reached out to me about this tryout at Hutch. I went and tried out and had a great tryout. They said I was the best there, and I received a scholarship to play. I loved the coaching staff and everything about the campus.
“I thing Hutch is getting the hardest worker on the field and off of the field, and I truly do believe that. The strengths that I have is I could play any position on the field and make a difference with my strength and speed. That makes me dangerous. I need to work more on conditioning, of course, and the playbook … also being mentally prepared.”
Hare said he is looking forward to what’s ahead for him in college but believes his days at Eureka have put him in a great position to succeed.
“I’ve been through a lot, and I wouldn’t want to go through this with anybody else,” Hare said. “We went through two tornadoes, we played an entire season away because our field and complex got destroyed, as well as training on a a bad track and other tracks during track season. I’m proud to be a Eureka Tornado, but I know my time is up. I think I have done well while I’ve been here and, if I could do it again, I wouldn’t do it very much differently … not too many regrets. I’ll have the lunch memories forever, the games, and prom. A bunch of good memories, and I’m glad that I was a Eureka Tornado.”
A LITTLE MORE ABOUT ZACH HARE …
EASTERN KANSAS SPORTS: What are some of your interests and hobbies away from school?
HARE: “I love football obviously. It’s been my favorite thing since I could pick up a ball. I love lifting and running … fitness in general. I know somewhere along the line I’m going to be involved in the fitness world. I have a bunch of dreams and admirations to become great at whatever I do.”
EASTERN KANSAS SPORTS: Who is your favorite athlete? Favorite sports team? Favorite music group/singer?
HARE: “My favorite athlete of all time is Sean Taylor. To see such a great talent, father and teammate taken away from the world is such a tragedy. I love the Ohio State Buckeyes, and the Indianapolis Colts. I love a bunch of different genres of music, but it would be a toss up between rap and rock. Tupac Shakur is probably my favorite artist ever.”
EASTERN KANSAS SPORTS: Who are the people that you look up to as far as role models?
HARE: “My mother and grandpa. They both gave up so much for my brother and I. It’s so amazing. I thrive to be that good of a person in life. They are by far my role models. I love them so much.”
EASTERN KANSAS SPORTS: What is a fun fact about you that people may or may not know?
HARE: “A fun fact a lot of people don’t know about me would have to be I was a model baby for a calendar when I was an infant.”