Coming in as the fourth seed, Zaza was pitted against top competition, including Omar McLeod and Divontte Dennis, both of Kingston College in Jamaica.
"Competition actually excites me," Zaza said. "The Jamaicans make you faster, so you have to pretty much run your own race and then kick whenever you need to and you'll probably be right there with them."
McLeod won the event in 51.62.
Zaza was especially thrilled with his finish because the 400 hurdles is a race not often run at local meets.
"At practice, I've just been working on form and staying strong when coming around the final bend," he said. "My whole aspect on the race was that I needed to stay straight-minded and then just see what happens at the end."
Lions dominate. The Swenson girls' 4x400 relay runners rely on team chemistry to help them go through tough events.
That chemistry was working during the Philadelphia-area final.
Leading for nearly the entire race, the Lions finished first in 3 minutes, 46.13 seconds. That was more than five seconds faster than the time posted by second-place Central Bucks West.
"This was the best we've ever done," Markeeta Thomas said. "We didn't expect this, and for us to go that fast, it was like, wow."
Thomas started the Lions on a fast pace before handing off to Amy Hicks, who continued to extend the lead. By the time Tichina Rhodes and Imani Harris-Quillen held the baton for the final two legs, the race appeared to be over.
"We don't know what to say. We're speechless," Harris-Quillen said. "We skipped five seconds [off their personal best], and 3:46 is unbelievable."
Also, Hicks, Rhodes, Harris-Quillen, and Jameela Muhammad won the 4x100 Tri-State race in 46.97 seconds.
"We all train together," Rhodes said. "We do a lot of hard workouts, and that just helps us to get throughout days like these."
Owls miss opportunity. A fifth-place finish against some of the country's best talent is nothing to scoff at, but Bensalem had hoped for much more.
Despite leading the race with only four laps remaining, the Owls finished fifth in the boys' 4x800 Championship of America in 7:49.54.
Bensalem started the race in stride, as Brad Rivera led the Owls to second place through one leg. After the handoff, Armand Cox-Finn continued to hold pace and even took the Owls into first midway through the race.
Things then began to go downhill. Bensalem fell back to third during the third leg before falling even farther back in the final 800 meters.
Pleasantville (N.J.) won the event in 7:40.71.
"Nothing went wrong in particular," anchor Kyle Francis said. "The other teams brought it all out on the track - and so did we - but they just got the best of us."
Although the Owls were disappointed in their finish, they still looked on the bright side.
"Competing in the Championship of America, you have to be extremely talented to win," Francis said. "Just to be running even close with those guys is a great feeling."
Other results. Neumann-Goretti's Todd Townsend finished eighth in the boys' 400 hurdles championship. . . . Cheltenham placed sixth in the boys' 4x100 small-school race. . . . Council Rock South's Chris Spadaro finished 10th and Malvern Prep's Eric Purnell was 12th in the boys' long jump championship.
Contact Austin Odenbrett at firstname.lastname@example.org.