Zach Blankenship recalls it as an “out-of-body experience.”
The Bixby senior remembers attempting to hang clean 300 pounds at July’s Night of Champions, a fun event that signals the end of the Spartans’ summer workouts and preps the beginning of a new high school football season.
Under the stadium lights and surrounded by teammates, the 5-5, 145-pound Blankenship calmly stood over the bar, which bulged with four plates on each side. Although his previous personal best was 265 pounds, he figured if it was ever going to happen, it would be at the Night of Champions.
His teammates didn’t doubt he could do it, but the shocked expression on many of their faces as he completed the lift told the true story. As soon as he dropped the bar on the ground, Blankenship was mobbed by his teammates.
“It’s a special night,” admitted Blankenship. “The adrenaline you have, and all your friends are around you and all the people are watching. It’s a lot of fun. I was just feeling it.”
Video of the impressive lift quickly made the rounds on social media and gave Blankenship some well-deserved notoriety.
When asked if Blankenship is pound-for-pound the strongest player head coach Loren Montgomery has had during his Bixby tenure, he didn’t hesitate to rank him at or near the top.
“We’ve had some really strong guys, but he would have to be close,” said Montgomery. “I mean, a 145-pound guy cleaning 300 pounds, that’s pretty amazing.”
A two-time state champion wrestler, Blankenship has seen his share of athletic success. He will see time this season at tailback, linebacker and special teams for the three-time defending state champion Spartans.
“We use him everywhere,” stated Montgomery. “We can line him up at wide receiver. He allows us to move our other guys around. He’s just a tremendous athlete and a very competitive kid.”
Blankenship has changed the minds of doubters that believe size is a disadvantage on the football field.
“It’s just a number,” claimed Blankenship, who is also senior class president and boasts a 4.7 GPA. “It’s not about the size of the dog. It’s the size of the fight in the dog that matters. That’s kind of what I live by.”
“He’s probably going to be the president or CEO of a Fortune 500 company some day,” claimed Montgomery. “He’s going to be successful no matter what he does.”
“That means a lot,” admitted Blankenship after being told of Montgomery’s compliment. “I have so much respect for Coach Montgomery. He’s been here since I was little and hearing that from someone like him, I appreciate that a lot and I hope I can fulfill it.”
Blankenship and the Spartans put their 37-game winning streak on the line this week when they take on Jenks in a showdown between the defending 6A-I and 6A-II state champions. The highly-anticipated Ford Game of the Week will be broadcast on Friday, September 3rd, on Cox’s YurView Channel 3 at 7:30 P.M. or watch it online.
Bixby has won three of the last four meetings in the rivalry, but Jenks is the last team to the beat the Spartans (2018).
“You know it’s extra special because they’re a rival,” said Blankenship. “We try to treat every game like a state championship game. We love playing them and we love beating them.”