HERMISTON, When you talk about a school¹s best football, basketball and baseball players, you¹re usually talking about three of the elite athletes in the entire school.
In Hermiston, you need only mention one name, Jared Zabransky, and you've covered perhaps the finest player in all three sports.
While Zabransky wraps up his final year as the most recognizable student on campus, things weren't always so smooth for the all-star athlete. His freshman and sophomore years of high school proved to be somewhat turbulent, but Zabransky says he's done a lot of growing up since then."I got into a lot of trouble my first couple of years." explained Zabransky. "But I've matured a lot, and really separated myself from the things that caused me the most problems."
With a core of upperclassmen making up his immediate circle of friends, Zabransky's transition from junior high to high school was relatively easy. It was against those same upperclassmen that Zabransky developed from a gifted young athlete, into the focus of every opponents game plan that faces the Bulldogs.
Combining pure talent and an unyielding work ethic, Zabransky's junior year culminated with him being named an Intermountain Conference first team selection in all three of his chosen sports.
Zabransky led his team on the gridiron as one of the most versatile and athletic quarterbacks in the state. He would also go on to lead the basketball team in scoring, rebounding and assists, and the baseball team in virtually every offensive category.
When in the game, Zabransky is conspicuous by his high level of effort and ability. But don't look for him on a sideline, or in a dugout, yelling at teammates in an effort to motivate or intimidate them into their own higher level of play. He's a quiet leader that lets his actions speak louder than words.
"I'm not an in-your-face type of guy." said Zabransky. "I try to lead by example. I feel that if I¹m putting all I can into a game or practice, that my teammates will respect me enough to give that same effort."
Even with all of the individual honors bestowed upon him his junior year, a state title has still eluded Zabransky.
If this year¹s football season is any indication of where Zabransky's senior
campaign will take him, it may pprove to be the finest year of his high school career. Leading the team to their first 6-0 start in school history,and a share of the IMC title, Zabransky looked poised to go deep into the playoffs.
Unfortunately for the 7-2 Bulldogs, a rule that determines IMC seeding with a coin toss, left them with one of the toughest first round assignments in the state, a trip to Roseburg.
Hermiston was strong in the early going, but fell to the #2 ranked Southern League champion Roseburg Indians.
"I don't like the way that that was decided." said Zabransky. "I feel that we'd still be in the playoffs right now had a better system been in place."
Barring a major turnaround from a basketball team that finished 5-10 in the IMC last season, Zabransky's best, and last, opportunity for a state title may have to come on the baseball diamond.
While Zabransky did help lead the baseball team to the state tournament last season, the post season experience was bittersweet for the shortstop/pitcher.
Toward the end of the season his father was stricken with a rare case of viral encephalitis. It became almost impossible for him to focus on sports with his father in a coma in a Spokane hospital for three weeks. Zabransky finished the season in a haze, and left the American Legion summer team, not long after the season started. His father has only left the hospital recently, and is still recovering from the effects of the virus.
"It was a tough time mentally for me and my entire family." said Zabransky. "My parents have always come to all of my sporting events and it was odd to look into the stands and not see them there. I felt like I needed to take some time and return the support that they¹ve always shown me."
With or without a full summer of baseball, Zabransky is still considered one of the top seniors in the state, and has even given consideration to
entering his name in next year's Major League Baseball draft.
Whether or not he decides to work his way through the grind that is minor league baseball, Zabransky's post graduation options are not limited to the baseball diamond.
As recently as last week Zabransky has been in contact with college recruiters looking to lure one of Eastern Oregon's top athlete. While Oregon State University, University of Oregon and the University of Idaho have all shown interest in the 6'3" 195 pound senior, Zabransky says that Boise State University has emerged as the front runner in the Zabransky sweepstakes.
While the opportunity to slide into the quarterback spot as early as his sophomore year, has Zabransky close to signing his letter of intent with BSU, he has set his sights on the school for a number of other reasons as well.
First and foremost may be the location of the campus itself. A relatively short four hour trip from Hermiston would afford Zabransky the opportunity to return home as often as possible. The distance would also allow for his parents to make the trip to see their son in action on game days.
Zabransky also has his sight set on playing basketball and baseball at the next level and feels that those opportunities could present themselves in Boise. The final factor is more personal than athletic. Zabransky's girlfriend is a member of the Hermiston dance team. With BSU having one of the top quality dance teams in the country, she will more than likely join him there next year.
Without a particular college major in mind as of yet, Zabransky is primarily
focusing on raising his level of play with his sights set on becoming a professional athlete.
"I'm interested in archeology, but there¹s no money in that." said the soft spoken, but confident Zabransky. "I wanna be living large. I want to live in a big house and have nice cars."
With a 3.8 GPA and confidence to go with his superior athletic ability, 10 years from now you could easily find Zabransky digging up an ancient tomb in Egypt or digging in at the plate in Yankee Stadium. Regardless of where life takes him from here, Zabransky would love to come back some day to be honored by the people that made it all possible.
"It would be great to come back here one day and have them retire my number." said Zabransky. "Not just knowing that people would always remember my time here, but also to show the coaches and mentors that I've had over the years that our hard work had paid off."
There is no doubt that Zabransky's name will be mentioned whenever a discussion of the elite Hermiston athletes arises.
More importantly for a school in search of their first state team title in any sport, save wrestling, Zabransky has once again raised the bar that a Hermiston athlete must perform to in order to lead a team to the ultimate achievement in high school athletics.