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Hobart's Leipart wins Cougar Kickoff again

NEW CARLISLE -- Only one thing kept Bruce Leipart from continuing to play football in a city where the sport has long been king.

"I just wasn't huge," the Hobart junior said. "If some college says, hey, you want to play football? I'd love it."

At 140 pounds, Leipart knows that's not happening, but should cross country be his route to a scholarship, he will have football to thank for it, albeit indirectly.

"You've got to want it more than everyone else or they're going to want it more than you. I've had that (mentality) since I was 3, playing Pop Warner," he said. "Every practice, we'd run around the whole field for the after-practice cool-down. My dad made me do it until the big kid was done. The parents thought he was crazy."

Leipart played football until eighth grade, when his lack of size steered him to cross country. He won the Hobart Invitational in his second career race, wearing a pair of 'Nike beaters,' and Brickies coach Ty Artherhults noticed.

"Ty came down to me. He made me feel like I was supposed to be out there," Leipart said. "That drew me in."

Tuesday, he returned to the scene of his most emotional day as a runner for the New Prairie Kickoff Classic.

"This is the course that broke my heart, this is the course that brought me back, it is the course in state of Indiana," Leipart said. "It's that guy of courses."

The last time Leipart ran at New Prairie, last year's semistate, he left thinking he'd narrowly missed out on a state meet berth. A few days later, after a scoring correction changed the team standings, Leipart found out he had actually advanced.

"All of last year's cross country memories were faded by state," he said. "I don't remember anything besides state. It's all a blur."

Leipart does remember winning the Kickoff Classic, which he won again in a time of 17:00.08, 30 seconds ahead of the Cougars' Josh Baltes, who was also the runner-up in the meet last season.

"I felt better. My confidence was better," Leipart said. "I took it from the start. I put in a surge on every curve so when he turned, he saw I was farther than I was before. It's all mental. That's all running is, to be honest. Everyone out here is fit. They train for this. They can run the miles. It's the same weather, the same course. It's whoever gives up on themselves. You've got to push it. It's a great uplift, a nice change. It will make my workouts better."

No one would have known it by watching, but the race was Leipart's first 5K of the season.

"It felt long, but I felt good," he said. "It was wet, the sand was killer, (going) up the hills. The only way it would've been good if it was hard was going up Agony (Hill). Agony was a pain. It always is. It's the name, agony. It puts a mental picture in your head, you've got to think this hill is bad. It's not meant for everyone. The puddles are annoying. I tried my hardest to stay out of them. I didn't want it to slow me down, stepping in mud. My whole goal was to stay out in front so I didn't get splashed in the face. That would've just made me upset."

Hobart's Bruce Leipart won Tuesday's New Prairie

Kickoff Classic, taking first in the meet for the second

year in a row.

Baltes was coming off a big win at the Harrison (West Lafayette) Invitational on Saturday, so the short turnaround may have been a factor in the margin.

"It was difficult. I didn't get as much rest as I normally do between races," Baltes said. "This course is a bit slower than the last course we were on. All that considered, it's still good to come out and compete. We both pushed for what we could get and it just turned out the way it was. It was just less than I had the last time."

New Prairie took the five spots after Leipart to post a tidy score of 20, followed by Hobart (56). The Brickies girls were also second to the Cougars, 31-53, with freshman Ella Hornak a distant second to NP's Lillian Zelasko.

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