Lakitsky challenged himself
At first, it was a little bit of culture shock for Zack Lakitsky.
As he went from middle school track to varsity track, Lakitsky's confidence level was tested.
"It was just so different," Lakitsky said. "It was so much harder."
Like most freshmen, Lakitsky felt like he ranked "at the bottom of the list" when he first joined the high school team.
Feeling that way, Lakitsky said he didn't have enough confidence to compete successfully at the varsity level during the early days of his career.
As his high school career evolved, however, that changed.
Lakitsky continuously set high goals and challenged himself.
"At first, I was like, 'Oh my gosh, this is bad,'" Lakitsky said. "Over the years after that initial thought, however, I decided to continue to train harder and harder. In the process, I got stronger and stronger."
Lakitsky eventually reaped the benefits from an outstanding work ethic and growing confidence in his own ability.
"It takes a lot of hard work and a lot of things you don't want to do," Lakitsky said. "It takes practices coming in on Sundays when you don't have to, Saturday practices that are extra long and staying a half an hour after practice.
"It just takes a lot of things that a normal person wouldn't want to do. You just have to have the motivation to do it."
Thanks in large part to his tremendous motivation, Lakitsky had a memorable career with the Tamaqua boys' track and field team. The highlight of that career came this past season as Lakitsky racked up one victory after another.
The performance by the Blue Raider senior was capped by a stellar postseason.
Lakitsky won three golds (100, 200 and 400 meter relay) and a bronze (long jump) at the Schuylkill League Championships.
He followed it up by advancing to the top of the podium three times at the District 11 Class AA Championship winning the 100 and 200 meter dashes and the long jump.
Lakitsky's excellence during both the regular season and postseason earned him the 2011 TIMES NEWS Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year Award.
The recently completed award winning season that Lakitsky produced was a long way from the doubts he experienced as a freshman.
"I absolutely didn't think it would turn out this way," Lakitsky said. "I wanted to do my best. I came out as hard as I could. I wanted to leave it all out on the track. I wanted this year to be my year, but I mean I was totally surprised with what I accomplished.
"I was glad with what I did. I couldn't have asked for anything better than what I did this past year. I did exactly what I wanted to do."
While Lakitsky was able to overcome the obstacles of his doubts, Blue Raiders' head coach Tom Kanger believes it was his work ethic that helped him overcome his fears.
"I don't think there's anybody out there worked as hard as he did," Kanger said. "Throughout his career, Zack constantly put in extra work. At the end of every season, he always worked an extra week or two. When people weren't thinking about track, he was still thinking about track. He wanted to know what he needed to do to get better.
"He helped the rest of the team out in the process. He was a motivator for a lot of the kids on the team. This year was probably one of the most successful teams I had in awhile and a lot of it had to do with him bringing a lot of the kids along and showing them how to do things the right way."
He may not have had a successful run at the PIAA State Championships, but Lakitsky isn't going to let it put a damper on a career which he never thought would pan out the way it did.
"I was upset that I didn't do as well at States," said Lakitsky, whose best finish was a 12th in the long jump. "I went out there and competed in three events. Not a lot of people can say that.
"I did my best. It just wasn't quite good enough."
Come this fall, Lakitsky will attend Keystone College on a track scholarship, but Kanger said his presence will be felt for years to come on the Blue Raider track team.
"I will be able to use him as an example when I go forward coaching different teams," said Kanger. "I know I will be saying to future teams, 'when Zack Lakitsky was here, this is what he did.'
"For me personally, he gave me a lot of good reasons to continue coaching."