Runner Zoe Arnett, 14, makes nationals, with friends as wind behind her

Zoe Arnett, an eighth grader at Chester Academy on the varsity track team, qualified to compete at the Nike Nationals Track and Field Championships in Eugene Oregon, held June 16-19, hosted by the National Scholastic Athletics Foundation.

| 20 Jun 2022 | 03:18

Zoe Arnett is a runner, but not just any runner. An eighth grader on varsity track at Chester Academy, Zoe broke the school record in the 1500 meter with a time of 5:13. She qualified in both the 1500 and the 800 meter for middle school girls to compete at the prestigious Nike Nationals Track and Field Championships in Eugene Oregon, held June 16-19, hosted by the National Scholastic Athletics Foundation.

Zoe did well for her first time at the event and she loved it, according to her mom, Diane. “She is 22nd in the mile and 18th in the 800 meter,” said Diane. “ Her brother and sister watched on the big screen at the elementary school and her dad pulled up the livestream at the hospital where he works.”

Chester track athletes use the school parking lot to train, sometimes in pairs on the Heritage Trail or in the high school building. Once a week, they use Washingtonville’s track, thanks to that school’s coach, Mike White, who made it available to them.

“I’m so proud of her! She is dedicated, determined, gifted and has the courage of a lion.” Chester track coach Patty Fassetta-Ganz said.

Zoe and her mom are quick to credit everyone who helped Zoe be successful.

“I’m thrilled that the story’s about her, but I want it to be about the team and everyone in the community who helps,” Diane said. “If it wasn’t for everybody around wanting all these kids to succeed, so many hands in this, none of this would be possible.”

Zoe’s track coach is terrific and a reason for the team’s successes, according to Diane. “She drives them all to be better and fights for these kids to get these opportunities. Coach Ganz and neighbor John Reilly have also helped with carpooling.

“Zoe is a track star and a star in everything--an incredible young lady, in a dance troupe, the school play and a straight-A honor student,” said Reilly.

The Florida and Chester track teams have now merged. Track season is over. But Zoe continued training with kids from Florida who were still showing up to help keep Zoe going. “Kids who don’t really need to are spending their time to help Zoe be the best she can be. Without that support, she wouldn’t learn what she’s capable of,” Diane said.

Zoe has other pursuits, too.

Zoe loves to dance and has been training for more than seven years at M’Lannie Hunter Dance Studio, where she studies lyrical dance: a combination of ballet and jazz. “Zoe is one of our hardest-working and talented company members. She helps with some younger dancers and is responsible beyond her years. Just an all-around beautiful dancer and person,” said Hunter.

A Girl Scout in Troop 262 since kindergarten, Zoe got her silver award for a community service project. Her troop painted rocks and made rock gardens for people in Valley View during Covid, so residents could see colors and encouragement from inside. Troop leader Beth Weinberg said, “Zoe is an amazing person; a team player always looking at ways to help others and to make the world better. It’s never about Zoe; it’s about the other person. I’ve known her since she was one; she’s always been that way.”

Zoe does well in school, too, her favorite classes are English and Social Studies. She also recently performed in the school play, “Mama Mia!”

Zoe is the oldest of Diane and Jeremy Arnett’s four children: Zoe, 14; Ian, 11; Drew, 10 and Sage, 5. All four are involved in sports. “We parents pretend to be athletic,” Diane said. “We play and do everything with them, but their athleticism far exceeds ours.”

Zoe had this to say about her experience at the Nationals: “There are no words to describe how amazing the feeling of being there was. From walking into the giant stadium, to knowing people were watching and cheering at home. And then to run with all of the amazing girls! The experience was amazing and I hope that I and others from my team can get there again one day.”

Asked what she’d like to do after college, Zoe said, “I kind of want to be a psychologist or psychiatrist—because I really want to help other people out, and I don’t do well medically. I’m terrified of needles--that’s never gonna work out.”

Zoe wants to tell all the people who helped her, “Thank you so much. It means so much to me that the entire community came together to help the track team and me out.”