FITCHBURG -- Zach Desrochers, a senior weight thrower for the Fitchburg State track & field team, spent a good chunk of his career in the shadows of one of the best all-around throwers in New England. But it looks like all that waiting is finally paying off in the biggest of ways, as Desrochers now finds himself in the starring role.
On Friday the Dracut native earned All-America honors by finishing seventh in the nation in the weight throw, posting an impressive mark of 61 feet, 4 inches at the Division III national championships in Naperville, Ill.
It marked the second straight year in which a Falcon weight thrower earned All-America honors, as last season senior Matt Muolo finished eighth. In the weight throw, competitors heave a 35-pound ball attached to a handle for distance.
"It's not ideal to live in somebody's shadow, obviously," Desrochers said. "But I think it gave me time to keep the pressure off of myself and hone my skills while (Muolo) got all the fame and glory. It was good working with Muolo in a couple of events, he was a big help and helped me tweak little things here and there.
"It was great having somebody at my level or better to train with, because when you're on a team by yourself, it's hard to find someone to push you. The two of us fed off each other and really pushed each other, so that was a really great experience."
A graduate of Greater Lowell Tech, Desrochers launched the second-best throw of his career at the national championships. His best distance, 62-5, came earlier in the season and earned him a No. 5 seed in Friday's event.
"It was pretty intense to compete at that level and still come out and do well," Desrochers said. "I just dedicated a lot of time getting in the gym, doing your drills -- and having a good team to train with really helps. Honestly, when I started at Fitchburg State, I didn't expect much. I thought I'd do well, but never get to nationals or become an All-American."
Desrochers was about a foot and a half short of the school record, which he said was the only goal he didn't accomplish in his career.
"Desrochers always wanted to get out from under Matt (Muolo's) shadow," Fitchburg State coach Jim Jellison said. "Zach is a tremendous athlete who just went one step above. We have a long history of great throwers, with many guys who have been to the nationals before. We've carried that history on."
Desrochers' run was made all the more impressive because he was battling a pair of nagging injuries that kept him sidelined for two weeks prior to the national championship and also cost him time earlier in the season.
"Zach is a hard worker," Jellison said. "He may have been ranked fifth going in, but we're talking about the top 13 throwers in the country. All eight guys who made All-American threw over 60 feet. It was tremendous competition."
Desrochers is on track to earn a bachelor's degree in criminal justice in the spring. The senior thrower also has a lot of potential heading into the outdoor season, which begins in about 10 days.