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Local Sports: Former Century athlete Zach Owings, now a top cornhole player: 'I just want to win'

Local Sports: Former Century athlete Zach Owings, now a top cornhole player: 'I just want to win'
Former Century High School athlete Zach Owings is headed to Myrtle Beach to compete in a cornhole tournament Dec. 29-30, 2018 that is set to televised on ESPN. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

Zach Owings said he began playing cornhole like most others, recreationally — just for fun in the backyard at cookouts and parties with friends and family.

Tossing around bags was an enjoyable hobby for the 2017 Century High School graduate and current freshman at Towson University, who spent his varsity career on the court for the Knights boys basketball team.

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But in a short period of time, cornhole has quickly transitioned into something bigger. And over the holiday break, as many students embark on the journey home, Owings is set to compete alongside fellow undergraduates on one of the sport’s biggest stages.

Owings and partner Kevin Davis will represent Towson in the American Cornhole League National College Cornhole Championships, set for Dec. 29-30.

“Last year, I started playing in the ACL and I saw how good the guys were,” Owings said. “I made a bunch of friends and I play pretty much every weekend now. They came out with the college thing and I was hooked.”

The two-day event is open to any undergraduate college students that did not participate for money in any ACL Advanced Conference or National events during the 2018-2019 calendar year.

Up to $25,000 in scholarship money is up for grabs with $15,000 allocated to the Doubles Event, in which Owings and Davis will be participating.

Cornhole is traditionally a lawn game in which players take turns throwing bags at a raised platform with a hole in the far end. A bag in the hole scores three points, while one on the platform scores one point. Play continues until a team or player reaches the score of 21.

During the fall semester, Owings said he traveled around Maryland and to surrounding states to play in tournaments on the weekend. While most college students worked part time to earn money, he had the luxury of earning money through an unprecedented avenue.

As Owings began to develop a passion and commitment for the sport, then came the encouragement to pursue it more seriously.

“I was going up to local tournaments just around Maryland and people were like, ‘Why don’t you play more?’” Owings said. “I listened to them and now I’m pretty good.”

The partnership between Owings and Davis came about through mutual friends. Attending the same University and hailing from the same high school — a partnership just made sense.

“I don’t know what really hit it off,” Davis said. “[Zach] came to me … and I was like, “Hell yeah, man, this is going to be awesome. We just started grinding in little tournaments and practicing … just trying to key in our throws.”

Former Century athlete Zach Owings tosses a bag toward a cornhole board. Owings is headed to Myrtle Beach to compete in a nationally televised cornhole tournament Dec. 29-30, 2018.
Former Century athlete Zach Owings tosses a bag toward a cornhole board. Owings is headed to Myrtle Beach to compete in a nationally televised cornhole tournament Dec. 29-30, 2018. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

Davis, a student at Towson while working full-time as a general contractor, said he only started playing cornhole on a local scale but had no hesitations when Owings brought up the idea of playing in a national tournament.

For both there were some initial nerves.

“You’re on the big stage,” Davis said. “We’re talking national television, who doesn’t have nerves just thinking about it?” “All of these guys are going to be our same age, so there won’t be an intimidation factor.”

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Added Owings: “I’m nervous, but I’m so excited.”

Among a competitive scene is a tight-knit group of players and Owings expressed added confidence having the opportunity to play along ACL pros such as Timothy Pitcher, a top-ranked thrower in the state of Maryland.

“I just love being with the people,” Owings said. “I’ve met a lot of cool guys and I just love hanging out with them.”

The rigor and workload of a college semester has taken up the bulk Owings’ time over the past few months, but he’s had the chance to practice while at home, throwing up to a couple hundred bags each day.

Owings said he’s not sure what the future holds for him on the cornhole scene, but he’ll continue to compete in tournaments over the summer following the school year.

For now, the focus is on Thursday and putting together the best performance possible.

“I just want to win,” Owings said. “I know from seeing some of these people play that I can beat them, but we’ll see what happens when we get up there.”

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