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Former Bronco Zack's county record still stands after 20 years

Staff Photo: Jason Braverman Brookwood grad Justin Zack high jumped 7-feet in 1992 to set a county record and the mark still stands 20 years later.

Staff Photo: Jason Braverman Brookwood grad Justin Zack high jumped 7-feet in 1992 to set a county record and the mark still stands 20 years later.

Justin Zack's first attempt to high jump 7 feet didn't go too well.

The former Brookwood track and field standout went under the bar instead of over it.

Zack brushed himself off and tried the attempt one more time. He cleared 7 feet at the boys track and field state meet in Jefferson back in 1992. The mark set a Gwinnett County record and 20 years later the record still stands.

"You never think as an 18-year-old something like that will stand that long," said Zack, 38, who works as a project manager at Turner Broadcasting.

The irony of the county record is Zack didn't win a state championship with that jump. Valdosta's Ernest Lowe cleared 7 feet on fewer attempts to win the state title that year.

"Normally, a 7-foot jump would get you first in the state," former Brookwood coach Jerry Arnold said.

Gwinnett has produced several standout high jumpers since Zack. Shiloh's Drew Brunson won state in 2003, Berkmar's Jerry Gross won in 2007 and Providence's Daniel Averso and Brookwood's Terence Davis won as well in 2006 by clearing 6-8. Averso cleared 6-10 earlier in the season. Norcross' Malcolm Davis won state by clearing 6-10 last year and Brookwood's Bilal Abdullah cleared 6-10 at the state meet this year to place second.

Despite the success at the state meet, they've never threatened Zack's county record.

"Somebody is bound to break it," Zack said. "I would like for it to stand for another 20 years to show my grandkids. Someone is bound to come along."

Zack's record is third-oldest in the county track record books and the oldest in the field events.

Only South Gwinnett's Alex Jumpeter in the 110 hurdles in 1985 and South's Dan Jumpeter's time in the 400 in 1987 have stood longer.

"That's one of the few records still around and he holds it," Arnold said. "It's hard to get. No one has come close since those 6-10 guys."

Zack didn't discover his high jumping ability until middle school when he won a field day event. He entered high school clearing in the low 6-foot range. Zack moved to Seattle for part of his sophomore and junior year. He placed third there and returned to Georgia for a dismal junior season.

Zack was also a forward/center for legendary coach Eddie Martin's basketball team. All of the jumping and bounding helped Zack in his training.

It paid off his senior year. Zack had a personal record of 6-8 going into the state meet. Once he cleared that in Jefferson, he kept going up.

"To jump 6-10 and 7 feet, I PRed by four inches," Zack said. "I was thrilled with the jump. It just stinks to have lost on jumps."

A four-inch PR? That's pretty impressive, considering it was at 7 feet.

"I think being a competitor and in a big meet you step up your game and want to win," Zack said. "Ideally, you try to peak at that moment."

Lowe, who also won state in the long jump that year, beat Zack on fewer attempts at 7 feet to win the title.

"Of course I would have liked to have a state title," Zack said. "I don't regret it. I wish I had a won a state title."

Zack's county record earned him a track scholarship to Georgia Tech, but he never reached 7 foot again. His best jump in college was 6-8.

"From a college performance, it was disappointing," Zack said.

Zack lives in Dunwoody with his wife Erin Patterson, who is also a 1992 Brookwood grad. They have two daughters -- Finleigh, 10 and Isabella, 8, -- and a son Patterson, 4.

"I"m hoping my kids can have some leaping ability," Zack said.

Zack hasn't high jumped in more than 15 years since his college days at Tech. That may change soon, though. He's recently rekindled some old friendships with his Tech teammates. There is talk of joining Masters Track and Field and the All-American status for a 40-year-old in the high jump is 5-9 .

"I'd love to get that," Zack said.

It would be well below his all-time personal record, but Zack is still amazed at how he was able to clear 7 feet 20 years ago.

"It's hard to believe," Zach said. "I even wonder how I've been able to jump like that."