The above average high school runner will generally be a small fish in a small pond. They will win either their division or conference cross country title, but will not be able to compete on the national stage. This is simply a truth of the matter when it comes to competitive sports.

There are also athletes who are big fish that compete in big ponds. Runners from more populous and competitive states, such as California, Texas, or New York, could easily win titles elsewhere but have to deal with the inevitable level of competition in their home state.

Then there are runners who are too big for their pond. If this was college football, these top athletes and teams would consider making a switch to a more popular conference where they could draw in more revenue from games. But maybe being a big fish in a small pond isn’t necessarily a bad thing in cross country.

North Dakota is a quiet state in a region of the country that is starting to make a lot of noise. The state is known for interesting facts such as having the most churches per capita in the United States and even though the film Fargo is based on the city, none of the footage was actually shot there. This fall, North Dakota can add another interesting factoid: They have a nationally ranked cross country program.

Jake Leingang from Bismarck High School in North Dakota possess incredible potential this fall. He’s the second best returner from both Nike Cross Nationals and Foot Locker Finals where he finished eighth and fourth, respectively. Edward Cheserek finished in front of him at Foot Locker (first) and Nick Ryan from Fayetteville Manlius High School in New York finished fifth at NXN.


2012 cross country
  

Race Place Time Date

Mandan Kiwanis Invitational
 

1
 

15:35.00
 

9/15/2012

Rusty Bucket Invitational
 

1
 

15:59.00
 

8/30/2012
 



2011 cross country

Race Place Time Date

Footlocker Finals
 
4 15:21.2 12/10/2011

Nike Cross Nationals

8 15:35.0 12/3/2011

 Footlocker Midwest

2 15:10.0 11/26/2011

 NXN Heartland Region

2 15:26.6 11/13/2011

 North Dakota States

1 14:59.80 10/22/2011

 East Dakota Conference

1 15:50.0 10/8/2011

 Roy Griak Invitational

1 15:33.44 9/24/2011

Anderson/Stavn Invitational

1 15:12.0 9/17/2011

Mandan Kiwanis Invitational

1 14:51.0 9/10/2011

Rusty Buckett Invitational
 
1 15:54.0 9/1/2011

Becky Wells Invitational

1 15:46.0 8/27/2011



Last weekend, Leingang and Bismark High School ran the Mandan Kiwanis Invitational where they both placed first. The course was three miles in 2011 and 5000m in 2012, which attributes to the slower finishing time.

Early season times are sometimes unreliable because an athlete’s fitness is not fully developed and the competition may be level appropriate. While one would assume that Leingang was not challenged in a September invitational in North Dakota, there were runners close to him. More importantly, they were his teammates.

Bismarck High School returns five of their top seven from their third place finish at the NXN Heartland Regional. Senior Lane Kashur ran nearly identical times at the Mandan Kiwanis Invitational in the last two years, but the 2011 course was only three miles. Kashur finished twenty-first at the NXN Heartland Regional. Also looking to add depth to the team is junior Matt Gotta. Gotta was Bismarck High School’s sixth man at the NXN Heartland Regional, but has been close to Kashur in both races this season.

Rounding out the top five is Preston Lerew, who was the team’s second place finisher at their season opener, and then a group of athletes that includes Logan Fischer, Sam Clausnitzer, and Brandon Berg.

Leingang should be on the national radar not just because of his 2011 cross country performance, but his 2012 outdoor track and field times as well.


2012 outdoor track and field

Race Place Distance Time Date

Nike Elite Run

2 1-Mile 4:10.60 6/29/12

NBON Nationals

3 1-Mile 4:11.80 6/16/12

NBON Nationals

1 5k 14:26.16 6/14/12

adidas Grand Prix

12 1-Mile 4:07.29 6/9/12

Arcadia Invitational          

4 3200m 8:51.23 4/7/12

Brooks PR Invite

2 2-Mile 8:59.66 2/26/12 



Leingang has an incredible combination of speed and strength. Whether you use the IAAF Scoring Tables, the McMillan Running Calculator, or the Jack Daniels’ VDOT, his mile, two mile, and 5000m times are pretty comparable. However, most high school athletes lack the aerobic capacity and strength to make the equal jump from their two mile to 5000m time.




Leingang may three-peat as the North Dakota State Champion and their outdoor track and field team may ten-peat as the state champions, but these athletes should be thinking about swimming in a bigger pond. Leingang should be top five at both NXN and Foot Locker while the rest of the Bismarck squad should look to qualify for NXN as a team. There may be quiet stereotypes regarding North Dakota, but Jake Leingang and Bismarck High School are making some serious noise.