Firebirds’ Ziegler, Hack stellar student-athletes

From left, Jack Ziegler, a Free State swimmer, and Weston Hack, a Free State basketball player, have been buddies all their lives and have had outstanding seasons in sports. They were both perfect on their ACTs.

One day, a Free State High student will come along and break swimmer Jack Ziegler’s school record in the 50-freestyle, established while winning the state title and helping his school to a third-place finish at the state meet.

Some year, the Firebirds also will have a basketball player who stuffs a stat-sheet even better than Weston Hack, who in Tuesday’s 55-40 victory at Shawnee Mission West totaled 12 points, seven rebounds and six assists.

But Ziegler and Hack share a record that never will be broken. Tied, yes. Broken, impossible.

The seniors who have known each other since preschool both scored a perfect 36 on the ACT.

From left, Jack Ziegler, a Free State swimmer, and Weston Hack, a Free State basketball player, have been buddies all their lives and have had outstanding seasons in sports. They were both perfect on their ACTs.

The friendship of Jack Ziegler, left, and Weston Hack goes back to their childhood years.

Chuck Law coaches Hack every day this time of year and he had Ziegler in his history class. Unlike many of the classes taken by the ACT aces, it was not of the Advanced Placement variety.

“The kid has a perfect score on the ACT and he was humble, inquisitive and never conducted himself for a second with any arrogance about his level of intelligence,” Law said of Ziegler. “Weston’s the same way. Some people always have to be the smartest guy in the room. Neither one has ever been like that, and that speaks volumes about both of them and how they’ve been raised.”

Hack took his four-hour exam in the fall of 2013, Ziegler a year later. Both learned of their results online.

“I logged in and saw it was 36,” Hack said. “I yelled to my mom, and shoot, she just went crazy. She was a lot more excited than I was.”

Hack said he was shooting for “34 or 35,” because his older brother, Wilson, a former Free State golfer and basketball player, scored a 33.

“Bragging rights, you know how it goes,” Weston said. “You want to outdo your brother. He was very proud of me.”

Both students are undecided on their college destinations and both plan to study engineering. Ziegler said he would like to have a mechanical engineering/economics double-major. He listed a pair of Calculus courses as the most difficult ones he has taken at Free State.

“Calculus actually applies to a lot of fields,” Ziegler said. “I guess it can help the way you think about things. But it just has all sorts of applications, especially since I want to be an engineer. But it also has applications in economics, which I studied a little bit last year. It was interesting to see that it connected to Calculus.”

How so?

“It’s all about when you look at the graphs of profit or cost graphs,” Ziegler said. “If you look at the rate of change of those graphs, you can see the marginal costs or the marginal profit, if that makes sense. It’s kind of hard to explain.”

Not to Hack, undoubtedly.

Mental and physical toughness, more than pure intelligence, helped to make Ziegler such a strong swimmer.

Law didn’t hesitate when asked to explain how Hack’s intelligence makes him a better basketball player.

“I don’t know if you ever get a kid who’s 100 percent on board, but he’s about 99 percent on board of what it is that we as a coaching staff want to do,” Law said. “He’s such a great communicator and the kids respect him so much, that sure as heck makes our job a lot easier. They know how intelligent he is and they understand how basketball savvy he is. He helps get everybody in the right place. And he anticipates so well.”

Hack’s gifts, physical and mental, don’t prevent the Firebirds from being underdogs tonight at Lawrence High in the second installment of the city showdown. Regardless of the outcome, Hack already has done things Law won’t ever forget. For example, after the meeting of coaches and captains with the refs before Tuesday’s game, Law said Shawnee Mission West coach Ryan Darst told him how impressed he was with Hack.

“For a coach to be that impressed with how mature beyond his years Weston is based on a 30-second interaction,” Law said, “I thought that was pretty interesting.”