When 26-year-old Eagle native Zac Johnson graduated from CU Boulder three and a half years ago, he wasn’t sure what his next steps would be. With a major in International Relations and a minor in Political Science, he had decided life as a politician wasn’t for him. What he did know was that he had a home at Mountain Recreation while he took the time he needed to figure it out.
Zac grew up participating in Mountain Recreation programs, dabbling in baseball but focusing most of his time and energy on swim team and hockey at the Eagle Pool and Ice Rink. When he went looking for his first job as a teenager, it was a natural fit to work concessions at the Eagle Pool. After that summer, he’d come back to work concessions during breaks from high school and college, teaching swimming lessons, and eventually coaching swim team and hockey. “I grew up there, I grew up working there,” says Zac.
As he continued to prove his strong work ethic and abilities as a team player, his responsibilities grew with Mountain Recreation until he was asked to come on full-time. “When I was given the option to go full-time at Eagle, it was a no brainer to come work for (Eagle Pool & Ice Rink Facility Supervisor) Sheryl,” says Zac, “She’s done so much for me (over the years) that I wanted to come back and help her out.”
“Zac has been a staple of the Eagle Pool & Ice Rink. It’s been amazing watching him grow up professionally and help raise his brothers with strong morals as well. I truly feel like he is a part of my family,” said Sheryl Staten.
You won’t be seeing this familiar face much longer, though. Zac ships out this January for basic training with the Navy.
“I love him like a son and miss him already. I am so proud of the man he has become,” said Sheryl.
His journey to this point began when Mountain Recreation’s Health & Wellness Supervisor Lucas Rivera noticed him working out at the Gypsum Recreation Center and asked what he was training for. The two bonded over fitness and Zac admired Lucas’s athletic prowess, including competing in ultra-marathons like the Moab 200. Fascinated by the mental fortitude required to complete a race at that level, Zac’s workouts took on a new sense of focus. “I want to be the best, and if I’m not, I’ll do it over,” said Zac.
A few years ago Lucas passed along a workout book to Zac. “He gave me a book with workouts that the Navy SEALs use to train, threw it out there as something new to try,” says Zac. The book ended up being a game changer in his life.
The military had always interested Zac, and when he was at CU Boulder many of classmates were either involved in ROTC or had served, and many of his professors were veterans. Still, he hesitated, unsure which branch would be the right fit.
The workout book kicked off Zac’s deeper research into the Navy & SEALs, “…as I read more and more I started to think, yeah I could do that.” With a reinvigorated sense of direction and purpose, he began to alter his workouts to mimic their rigorous mental and physical training regimes. In winter, this included ending his strength training sessions with a mile and a half run to a freezing cold stream where he would lower himself into the water for a few minutes to test his mental stamina, “I sit in the water and know, yeah, I won’t die. I’ve got this.”
After months of preparation, Zac made first contact with a recruiter in February 13, 2018.
Zac is grateful to Sheryl for making it possible for him to work his full-time job while also having the flexibility he needed to facilitate the increasing demands on his time leading up his ship out date.
With a stunning perfect score of 99 out of 99 on the Navy’s ASVAB test as well as high scores on his physical fitness assessments, Zac qualified for many of the Navy’s most attractive career paths. But he was always focused on the end goal, “I only wanted one thing, to join the Navy,” says Zac.
His January ship out date is fast approaching, and plenty of former students and parents are wishing him well on his journey. Many ask if he’s scared at all. His response: “I’m sure I will be nervous once I get on the plane, but right now, no, I wanna go. I want to get the preliminary stuff over with so I can get on to what I want to do. I’ve been thinking about nothing else for 2.5 years.”
The Mountain Recreation community won’t be the same without Zac, but we couldn’t be prouder of the journey he’s taken. From all of us at Mountain Rec, best of luck, Zac!