Now, the senior is set to leave behind a state-of-the-art athletic complex — emblazoned with mementos of his achievements — with a national championship trophy in tow.
“Looking back at it as I get older, as it sinks in,” Ferrara said, “it’s just going to mean the world.”
Ferrara won the NCAA Division III indoor pole vault championship March 8 in Naperville, Ill., with a school-record height of 5.09 meters (16 feet, 8.5 inches).
The Irondequoit native missed attempts at 4.89 (16 feet) and 4.99 (16-4) before rebounding to clear them, clinching a top-five finish and All-America spot (top eight).
Andy Fetzner, Ferrara’s pole vault coach, entered the competition optimistic, as only a few inches separated the top vaulters.
“We were a little bit conservative about our decisions … but I knew, looking at the overall competitors, that we had a chance to win,” Fetzner said. “My goal was to do what we normally do and try to get another All-American title.”
Ferrara cleared 5.04 (16-6) on his second attempt, clinching a top-three finish. He said Fetzner’s reassuring presence helped him recover from his early scares to have a shot at the title in the decisive 5.09 jump.
“Andy’s like, ‘You know, if you make this bar right now you’re going to put the pressure on them. You’ve got nothing to lose,’” Ferrara said. “All I remember is taking off and then getting over, because I blacked out pretty much over the top.”
Ferrara said his winning jump will forever be etched in his memory.
“I looked to my left, where Andy was standing, and he’s got his hands up going crazy … I hear my dad up in the stands screaming, my head coach (Ed Jaskulski) was screaming,” he said. “There’s no feeling that can describe clearing that bar and standing on that podium to know how hard you’ve worked to achieve this, and then being able to receive the trophy from Andy was just like, ‘Man, we did it.’”
Ferrara became the first Brockport vaulter to win the national crown, adding to a resume that includes two SUNY Athletic Conference championships and two All-America honors.
Fetzner said Ferrara’s competitive drive vaulted him into the Brockport history books.
“He just all of a sudden became the clear-cut guy who just wanted it more than everybody else,” Fetzner said. “You get to a certain height and some kids just totally break down, and Zach usually is just never fearful.”
Ferrara aims to clear 5.18 (17 feet) in his final outdoor season this spring. The physical education major hopes to become a teacher and coach following his graduation in May.
Fetzner said he knows Ferrara will succeed at whatever his future holds.
“With his attitude, just about anything you want to accomplish, you could accomplish,” Fetzner said. “It’s logical to think you have a guy like Zach — great work ethic, motivates everyone else around him, natural leader — that good things come to those who wait.”
His championship can never be taken away or topped, but Ferrara hopes his greatest record is the inspirational legacy he leaves behind.
“There’s still two months left to hopefully have an impact on someone’s life here at Brockport,” he said. “The biggest thing I want to show to people is that with hard work you can achieve success. If you hold nothing back and you put everything you have into something, you will be successful at it, and that’s what showed.”