FORT WAYNE, Ind. — Concordia Lutheran High School alumnus Zach Panning will be returning to his alma mater on Tuesday, November 7 to share with the community his story of persevering through adversity.
Panning, a 2014 graduate, is currently training to qualify for the next Olympic games as a marathon runner. His speaking engagement at the high school will include a moderated conversation and Q&A session about the role Concordia has played in his personal and professional life and the challenges he’s faced along the way. The free event is open to the public and will start at 6 p.m. in the high school’s auditorium.
"We are excited to welcome Zach back to our high school as he shares the journey our Lord is taking him on preparing for the upcoming Olympic trials,” said Concordia’s Chief Advancement Officer Matt Konow. “We know all those in attendance will be blessed by his remarkable testimony on faith, perseverance, and humility."
After an outstanding college running career at Grand Valley State University, Panning now runs professionally for Hansen-Brooks Original Distance Project. He finished as the top American, and 13th overall, at the World Athletic Championships in Budapest in August of 2023 and was 11th overall and 2nd among Americans at the 2022 Chicago Marathon running 2:09:28 which ranks as the 11th fastest marathon run of all time by an American. His finishes have put him in a good position to qualify for the Paris Summer Olympics at the Olympic trials in February, 2024.
While at Concordia, Panning was heavily-favored to be the individual IHSAA state champion in cross country his senior year. He had won every cross country title leading to the state finals meet. But as he was approaching the last 300 yards of the state finals race, his body began to shut down, and he finished the race in 22nd place. After he had recovered and was being interviewed by local media about how he felt after not winning the race, he praised God for the opportunity to compete and the incredible season he experienced, even as he was hurting.
His success did not come overnight, as he explains, but it was a slow process full of incredible people that helped him through the setbacks he had along the way.