Athlete credits foundation of faith for track and field success

State Hornet Staff

The phrase, “hard work pays off” is usually a statement that resonates with college students who often go to extraordinary lengths to achieve their goals.

Zach Coniglio is no exception.

As a senior thrower for the Sacramento State track team, Coniglio worked his way up from track as his third sport, to a Division I athlete and Big Sky men’s field Athlete of the Week on Jan. 28.

“I just ran track to stay in shape for football,” Coniglio said. “I started getting better and that’s where the scholarship came from.”

His work ethic has made an impact on the team that is felt strongly from the top beginning with Head Coach Kathleen Raske all the way down to his teammates and her entire coaching staff.

“His progress over the course of his career is inspiring,” said throwing coach Jeff Magley. “Zach has become one of the best throwers in Sacramento State history.”

Coniglio’s work doesn’t stop on the field.

“He’s a great person,” Raske said. “He’s someone who’s very selfless and always wants to help a friend, a teammate or buddy.”

Coniglio also expresses how faith is very important to him, and said he always finds a way to incorporate his strong work ethic in religious activities. He volunteers for various organizations, from helping children to encouraging college athletes.

“Over the summer, I volunteered as a counselor for an underprivileged kids camp,” Coniglio said. “It was really rewarding. I got to help and pray for a lot of kids.”

His prayers can also be heard on Sacramento State’s campus.

“He’s one of our Fellowship of Christian Athletes leaders, so he does a lot of planning for each week’s huddle,” Raske said. “Zach has a heart of gold.”

The Fellowship Christian Alliance is an organization for Christian athletes to come together and share their common faith through sports. Naturally, Coniglio’s leadership skills shine through.

“He’s a great guy and a strong man of faith,” Magley said. “He loves meeting with the Fellowship Christian Alliance and is always organizing activities.”

Coniglio’s religious commitment plays a large role in his life on the field as well.

“I had a javelin thrower as my roommate last year and we were both Fellowship Christian Alliance leaders,” Coniglio said. “We both excelled in athletics, he became an All-American and I won conference again. God plays a big role in my life.”

This unwavering faith permeates all aspects of his life, all the way down to his pre-meet routine.

“I always listen to my worship music,” Coniglio said. “That’s all I have on my iPod. My warmup is a form of worshipping God.”

During the summer, Coniglio works a construction job in the Bay Area. He works 40 hours per week, getting up at the crack of dawn.

Because the track team doesn’t offer full scholarships, Zach must work five days a week from 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. over the summer to cover his remaining tuition costs.

“I’m a laborer for the Central Sanitation District,” Coniglio said. “I’ll direct traffic and sometimes I’m on other construction units. It’s a job to help out with housing.”

Coniglio said a schedule like that often prevents him from putting in a lot of practice time during the summer, but his motivation keeps him going.

“He’s the kind of guy that nothing is going to hold him back and is someone who will work really hard to achieve his goals, whether it be academic, financial or track,” Raske said.

Even with a schedule that leaves little time for anything else, Coniglio still finds time to give back to the sport that has given him so much.

In his spare time, he helps coach Special Olympics athletes.

“Hard work has been apart of his success story,” Magley said. “The hard work paying off is apart of his inspiration.”

Josh Leeper can be reached on Twitter @SH_Sports