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Article Published February 11, 2021

Ziaks Will Always Cherish Playing Sports for North Haven

By By Dan Fappiano

For the past few years, Ryan Ziaks has been suiting up a member of the football and track programs at North Haven High School. Whether he’s blocking on the lines or throwing the shot put, Ryan’s favorite aspect of being an athlete is competing alongside the teammates that he’s grown up with in town.

A senior, Ryan started playing football in North Haven’s recreational league when he was in 5th grade. He had always enjoyed watching the sport and he wanted to give it a try. Ryan’s brother Brendan helped him make the transition to the gridiron.

“His impact definitely showed when I got up to the high school level. He helped to prepare me for school and football, whether it was understanding how things work and what’s expected of you as well, as little things like snap counts,” Ryan says of his brother. “He helped me understand what it was like going into a program with a really nice history like ours.”

Ryan started to enjoy football more as he began to get the hang of it during his 6th- and 7th-grade seasons. Ryan, an offensive and defensive lineman, continued playing football for the town’s rec league until his freshman year at the high school, when he joined the North Haven football team.

Ryan spent his freshman season competing at the JV level. He didn’t dress for most varsity games, but still helped out by filming the team’s contests. Regardless of whether he was on the sidelines or in the press box, Ryan could tell how serious the sport of football is for North Haven on those Friday nights at Vanacore Field.

“Even before I started playing, I could see how much of an event it was and how much pride this town took in the program. I could see how big this was in North Haven,” Ryan says. “To see it from a different perspective and seeing a lot of the guys that I looked up to in practice was surreal. To see them work their hardest for the man next to them and to win showed how much it means to this town.”

Ryan was expecting to see varsity time as a senior until the 2020 fall season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Head Coach Anthony Sagnella was pleased with how much Ryan had improved through hard work and knew that he deserved more time on the field.

Although he never got to play his senior year, Ryan appreciates everything that learned he as a result of working with people like fellow linemen Eric Milliard, Luke Maruca, and Kyle Maruca.

“A lot of guys played a tremendous role in developing me as a player and maturing myself as a person. There are so many guys that I could talk about that weren’t even at my position group that played a humongous role,” Ryan says. “Seeing how they approached the game and understood how to give your best effort in practice and on Friday nights showed me what it meant to be a football player in this town.”

As Ryan worked his way through the ranks, he was always listening to North Haven’s players and coaches, while doing everything he could to improve each day. Coach Sagnella says that Ryan consistently displayed a great work ethic and was committed to both improving his own skills and helping the team grow as a whole.

“The thing that best defines Ryan is that he is resilient. He never shied away from challenges. He was always willing to take away something that he could build off of,” says Sagnella. “He was very coachable, he listened, and he was conscientious of what you said to him. It’s guys like that that you know are going to be successful in life if they apply that same, mindset, drive, and commitment. I never had any doubts about his commitment to our program.”

During his freshman year, Ryan tried out for the North Haven boys’ indoor track team as a thrower. While Ryan didn’t make the team that season, Head Coach Marc Celmer encouraged him to keep coming to practice and try out for the outdoor squad in the spring. Ryan heeded Celmer’s advice and made the roster as a shot putter that spring.

Ryan was named a captain for North Haven’s indoor team in his senior year. Ryan feels that he’s made great strides as an all-around athlete through his experience of both manning the lines and tossing the shot.

“Playing anywhere, you need immaculate technique to succeed,” says Ryan. “In football, if you’re a smaller guy with better technique, you can win that matchup even if you’re facing a taller, bigger athlete. That same philosophy applies in shot putting. I’m not the biggest person, but if I stick to technique and proper preparation, I can be the best I could be.”

After he graduates from North Haven, Ryan plans on attending college to major in creative writing. Ryan has always had dreams of writing creatively and wants to become a novelist and a screenwriter. If there is a college that is interested in him for shot putting, Ryan would consider competing at the collegiate level.

Ryan has worked his hardest in order to become the best athlete and person that he can be throughout his time playing two sports in high school. Ryan says it’s an honor to wear the North Haven jersey and that he will never forget the memories he’s made while representing his hometown.

“It’s an incredible honor, just knowing the vast history of the North Haven football and North Haven track program has had. I watched incredible players, and there were incredible players before me. It was an honor being among their ranks,” Ryan says. “I would have liked to be out there as a senior, but I’ll never forget going out on Friday nights. I’ll never forget playing alongside my best friends. I’ll never forget the lessons I learned.”