2018-19 O-Zone Male Athlete of the Year: Zach Westmoreland, Joplin

Joplin’s Zach Westmoreland has been named the 2018-19 O-Zone Male Athlete of the Year. He becomes the first non-senior to win the O-Zone Male Athlete of the Year award in the seven years we have been awarding this honor.

Westmoreland is a three-sport standout earning all-state honors on the football field and track to go with second-team all-conference honors on the basketball court. He has a wealth of natural talent to lean on, but attaining success at the level Westmoreland did this year required much more than just talent.

“(Being an athlete) starts with a lot of responsibility. It means hard work and dedication. There is a lot of time put into being an athlete. Being an athlete means you will have to do things you definitely won’t like, but they are going to make you better,” Westmoreland said.

Football is Westmoreland’s best sport. He is a rare two-way player in Class 6 because his talent is too much to keep off the field. He earned First-Team All-State honors for his work as a wide receiver. Westmoreland was also the All-Class 5&6 Region Offensive Player of the Year and COC Offensive Player of the Year. He also earned First-Team All-Region honors at defensive back. In total, he hauled in 72 passes for 959 yards and 13 touchdowns while adding 41 carries for 354 yards and 11 touchdowns. Defensively, he had 58 tackles and seven interceptions. He rarely came off the field as a junior, as he also tallied 526 return yards.

“Zach is a great example of a multi-sport athlete,” Joplin head football coach Curtis Jasper said. “He competes hard in each sport to help his team be successful. He was blessed with natural ability and works hard to hone his skills. He is also fearless during crunch time when everything is on the line.”

Playing both ways at a high level in the area’s best football conference and the state’s toughest football class starts with focusing on the practice field.

“You have to put every last bit of energy you have into all those plays, and push yourself every play and rep you get in practice so you can build up that stamina; build up being sore and tired and being able to push through,” Westmoreland said. “Along with that is wanting to do whatever you can for your team. There is a certain point whenever you get tired (you think) ‘I have to do this for my team’. That is what motivates you.”

On the track, Westmoreland broke out late in the season to end up setting an all-class record in the javelin throw with 194’06. No competitor at a MSHSAA state meet has ever thrown a javelin as far as Zach Westmoreland did this year. Westmoreland earned all-state honors in the long jump with a fifth place finish at the Class 5 state meet. He finished with the area’s No. 1 javelin, No. 3 long jump and No. 8 triple jump marks.

“There are so many things that make him a special athlete,” Joplin head track coach Brandon Taute said. “His skillset combined with his size are definitely something you do not see very often. We could put Zach in any event in track or play him at any position in football and he would have success. However, if I had to pick one thing that separates him from everyone else it would be his ability to perform in the biggest moments. I am not sure I have ever been around an athlete that is more of a ‘gamer’ than Zach. He performs his best when the pressure is the highest. There have been multiple times in track where everything has come down to the last attempt and he always seems to rise to the occasion and jump/throw whatever he needs to. In football, he always seems to make his biggest plays in the biggest moments of the game.”

On the basketball court, Westmoreland earned second-team all-conference honors after filling up the stat sheet with 13 points, 4.5 rebounds. 2.1 assists and 1.8 steals per game.

“Zach is a very naturally gifted athlete, but what makes him special is that he is a multi-sport athlete that works at everything he does,” Joplin head basketball coach Jeff Hafer said. “To have the success he has had, in three sports at the level he performs, you have to spend countless unseen hours working on your strength, skill and mental toughness. Zach plays one way, hard, and he has seen the fruit of all his work come to fruition this year. His senior year should be one of excitement. Zach is definitely the most accomplished high school athlete I can remember from Joplin and that is a direct result of how much time he spends at all of the respective sports he competes.”

Westmoreland will start his senior season on the football field where sky high expectations await the Eagles in their second year in the Central Ozark Conference.

“Our goal is to win a state championship. Things go up and down all season long, but at the end we want a ring. Especially after last year’s success I think that is what is going to push everybody. (We) realize things like that are possible. We are changing Joplin; raising the standard like coach (Curtis) Jasper says,” Westmoreland said.