Zane Janiszewski couldn’t wait to walk up to the door to the Western Wayne athletics weight room.

Before entering, however, he calmly got his temperature checked as mandated by the school-board approved COVID-19 guidelines. Once cleared, the senior running back and linebacker got to work.

He stayed active during the pandemic lockdown. He made the most of the stay at home orders and spent his time in a makeshift home gymnasium. Janiszewski is bulked up, adding 20 pounds of muscle.

Coach Randy Wolff watches from 12-feet away as his prized pupil slams a medicine ball into a padded ground.

“He looks good, doesn’t he?” the coach said.

Now back with at least part of the varsity roster — only a few athletes can work out at a time because of social distancing — Janiszewski is focused only on the day and the work at hand. Still, somewhere in the back of his mind, the season opener against Dunmore is adding motivation for each repetition.

“It felt like all the pressure and uncertainty is over,” Janiszewski said. “The season looks like it could happen. It felt good to get back into the weight room with your teammates, push some weight around and build that brotherhood that you just don’t get in quarantine.

“That is the best part of this.”

CHRISTOPHER DOLAN / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Zane Janiszewski, Western Wayne football, was named an Athlete of the Week in October 2019.

 

Sports are a big part of Janiszewski’s life. He also excels at basketball and has received college recruiting attention as a catching and outfield prospect on the baseball diamond, where he missed out on a spring season because of the pandemic. In football, though, Janiszewski is coming off an outstanding junior season on both sides of the ball.

His durability and bursts of speed produced 1,881 yards on 231 carries with 30 rushing touchdowns as he guided the Wildcats to the District 2 Class 3A playoffs. On defense, the lightning-quick linebacker racked up 101 total tackles, including 42 solo, 12 for loss.

“We brought Zane up as a freshman, and he just had the body type,” Wolff said. “Last year, he carried the ball a lot for us. He is a physical player on both sides of the ball. To do that in our league and with the schedule we play, he understands that he has to be physically and mentally strong. And he is.”

His effort and performance earned him All-Region honors. It also catapulted him onto the college recruiting radar. Several schools are interested in his talents, including St. Vincent’s, Slippery Rock, the University of Pennsylvania and Brown University. That interest also indicates Janiszewski understands the importance of his academics and is a distinguished honor student. He is active in clubs, including the Future Business Leaders of America, is a member of the National Honor Society, serves as the vice president of the junior class and is a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

“This is all exciting,” Janiszewski said. “Knowing that I have an opportunity to go to college and pursue my goal of becoming a teacher. My mom (Kari) and dad (Ken) always preached to me that it’s student first. If I don’t do well in the classroom, I wouldn’t play. My parents didn’t have the chance to go to college, but they worked hard to give me that opportunity, so I am going to work hard to get there for them.”

After football, Janiszewski had another solid season as a guard for the basketball team. He scored 193 points and connected on 28 3-pointers. And, as he got ready for baseball, a sport he feels has been his favorite growing up, everything got shut down. So, like many of his teammates, Janiszewski turned a negative into a positive.

Throughout the quarantine, while schools were closed, Western Wayne set up virtual workouts by Carl Lutcowski. Athletes could sign in, lift, and stay in shape. Understanding he is one of the leaders of a young team that includes his brother, Luke, Janiszewski participated.

“All through the quarantine, I have a weight set in my basement and I just spent a lot of time down there,” Janiszewski said. “I was 175 at the beginning of quarantine and I am 195 now. So, that’s how I dealt with not having sports, by just lifting to get ready for the fall.

CHRISTOPHER DOLAN / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Zane Janiszewski couldn’t wait to walk up to the door to the Western Wayne athletics weight room.

 

“I knew my brother was coming up and he is definitely going to be better than me. So having him there and pushing me, I know I have to accept that leadership role for these guys and get them ready for varsity football and for Friday nights.”

Taking advantage of longer available hours to lift weights, Janiszewski, 17, who also works at his family’s gas station in Hamlin, started packing on the size. And during an agility session, he still looked every bit as quick and agile.

“He has a great family,” Wolff said. “He has a great support system, and his mom and dad really support him and his brother in everything they do. He works no matter what the sport or when he’s working. The competitor in him helped him cope with the loss of his baseball season by getting ready for football season. And it shows.”

There is still uncertainty swirling around the fall sports season, but Janiszewski keeps that out of his head.

Now, back in the weight room, it’s full steam ahead.

“I am not nervous about the season,” Janiszewski said. “I am just going to do the work now on the weights and work on my agility. We still have two months to worry about the season.

“I am waiting patiently for that first play.”