Kevin's Commentary: Garrett Zans

Sept. 11, 2013

LARAMIE, Wyo. - Garrett Zans knows how fortunate he is.

As a stellar distance runner for the University of Wyoming, he already has produced a top-ten finish at the first cross country meet of the year at Fort Collins last Friday. He also is a top distance performer for the Cowboys during the indoor and outdoor track seasons.

But competing as an athlete for Wyoming is only a fraction of what this senior from Rock Springs is all about. He is majoring in electrical engineering. That is a most challenging collegiate direction without question, but Zans wants to specialize in Bioengineering. He wants to concentrate on prostheses and the artificial replacement of limbs. He is on track to graduate in the spring, and then he will attend graduate school and very likely follow that with a doctorate.

"I use my legs every day and have all the mobility I need," Zans said. "I have a great time running, it's what I do. I can't imagine the people in this world who can't run, can't even walk very well for that matter. I want to help those people run again."

While growing up in Rock Springs, Zans was affected greatly by a young man whom he would see around town who had lost his legs. "He would walk on his hands. First I was amazed at his ability to adjust, his spirit and his competitiveness. I so wanted to help him. That's what motivated me to go this direction," he said.

Garrett Zans

In a nutshell Zans wants to work with the connections between the bionic limb and the remainder of an amputee's limb. At this point, the nerves must be rewired to bigger muscle groups in order to detect their signals. "I would like to work on streamlining this problem and take the signal directly from the severed nerve itself," he said.

There is amazing work being done on a bionic limb interface that will allow amputees to control their bionic limbs with their brains. Obviously the work regarding prosthetic limbs is tremendously complex. The sensitivity of these instruments is incredible. According to Zans, much of this special research is being done in the military as well as at places like Duke, MIT and Johns Hopkins.

While Zans had an idea long ago of what he wanted to study at UW, he had no plans on earning a scholarship to compete in the sport of track.

"When I was younger, I was a swimmer," he said. "I really thought that if there was a future for me in athletics it would be in that sport. But a friend talked me into going out for the cross country team in high school. I found out that I could do it, and that I actually enjoyed it."

His training regimen includes running 85 miles per week! If you pin him down, he will tell you that the steeplechase is his best event, and that cross country would be second. But since they both require a tremendous amount of training, he loves them both. "Yes, I would say the steeplechase is my specialty. But cross country is right there. I really enjoy running, and I really enjoy the training that those events require," he said.

Zans is very pleased with his choice to run at Wyoming. "[Former] Coach [Randy] Cole recruited me to Wyoming, and I'm extremely grateful for that. I also feel very lucky that Coach [Brian] Berryhill was hired as our coach. I respect him for what he did as a runner during his collegiate days [at Colorado State], and especially as a coach. He brings a lot of energy to our program. I know we have a long way to go, but with this coaching staff I believe we can get there."

Garrett Zans is a special young man with a very special plan. His legs have driven him to become an excellent runner for the Cowboys. His desire to help those not as fortunate will make him very special in his chosen profession. He's quite a Cowboy!

Kevin's Commentary Archive:
July 12, 2011
August 12, 2011
August 31, 2011
November 9, 2011
December 15, 2011
February 15, 2012
July 16, 2012
September 6, 2012
December 13, 2012
April 22, 2013
August 28, 2013