WOLF POINT — Back in October, Wolf Point senior Zander Ackerman took home a Class B cross country championship at a snowy Rebecca Farm in Kalispell and let his emotions pour out as he crossed the finish line.
“Winning cross country was a really big achievement for me,” Ackerman told MTN Sports this week. “I really proud to take that back to where I'm from.”
And this spring, Zander is aiming to go even bigger.
Entering Saturday’s District 2B meet at Lowry Field in Wolf Point, Ackerman has the top Class B times in the 800 (1:59.43) and 1600 (4:29.89), and the third best time in the 3200 (10:20.32).
He’s getting faster and pushing himself harder each week, as he eyes a potential three event sweep later this month at the State B meet in Laurel.
“I'm not really focused on time,” Ackerman said. “You just feel that push in your body, you know when it hurts, you just got to push harder through the pain and sweat. It's when you keep running on.”
These days you won't find many athletes more driven than Ackerman. But according to his cross country and distance coach John Wetsit, that wasn’t always the case.
“He had a little bit of talent and found himself complacent in the middle of the pack,” Wetsit said. “And now he’s starting to see that success and that fire. And that's really what I love watching week in and week out.”
Zander has good reason to run hard and strive for great things. He has two angels looking over his shoulder.
His biological mother Octavia passed away in 2016, followed by his grandfather Stanley in 2018.
“It's a really emotional topic, but it helps me a lot and drives me,” Ackerman said. “My grandfather and my mother passed within these past few years. They were my biggest fans, so it really just drives me to be a better athlete.”
Like many athletes from reservation communities, Ackerman carries the pride of his Wolf Point roots everywhere he goes. And if he gets his way, Wolf Point will be with him when he stands atop the podium later this month.
“We have a smaller community, so something big like this happens don't happen every day,” he said.
His coach has seen the response first hand. When Ackerman won the cross country title, he was welcomed home with a parade and a police escort.
“It's not even just the community of Wolf Point, it’s the whole reservation,” said Wetsit. “We were really hit by COVID and had some really tough times. And so for him to be such a bright spot for us to come home to we really needed that. We really needed that bright light.”
Ackerman doesn’t know what the future holds after high school, but he plans to keep running in college.