NACOGDOCHES, Texas (KTRE) - Zarreah Tilley has little memories of her father Zelvin "Punch” Tilley. Zelvin died when his daughter was just three.
Zelvin was a track star st Rusk High School.
“I don’t remember much but from what everyone told me he was a good guy," Tilley said. "My mom, she says I look like him and get it from him. That is a reason I push myself because I know he is over me and pushing me watching me to be a greater women that he wanted me to be.”
Tilley was one of just 16 runners in the Nacogdoches track program when Astin Greer took over. He immediately saw her leadership.
“For us Zarreah has scored like 300 points in the two years,” Greer said. “That is a lot of points for one track runner. When I got here we had 16 girls and they ran 4 meets. The UIL allows you to run in 8 meets before district so we started running in 8 and she was a contender in each one.”
In 2019, Tilley made the regional meet and was looking for the opportunity to qualify again for regionals before COVID-19 cut the season short. She has continued her running as she prepares to join the Jarvis Christian College track team in the fall.
“I still push myself because I will be running at Jarvis and I want to do better than I did in high school and junior high," Tilley said.
It will not be easy to replace her at Nacogdoches.
“To be able to come here and have somebody like her to build up our program from 16 here before I got here and 35 this year was great,” Greer said. “She was the only senior runner we had so we will have 33 returning and we are tacking on about 15-20 freshman so we will roll up into the district track meet with about 55 female athletes. She was one of the ones that started the tradition here so she will always be one of the ones I remember.”