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  • Writer's picturepeters1119

Leipart, Illiana boys capture Hobart Invite

Updated: Sep 19, 2020

HOBART -- As the crowd filtered out of New Prairie after last season's semistate awards ceremony, Hobart's Bruce Leipart might have been the saddest runner in the gym.

The then-Brickies junior finished 21st in the race, one spot out of individual qualifying for the state finals.

"I was heartbroken when I was told I didn't make it," Leipart said.

In the coming days, an issue arose over the placing of a runner from New Prairie, whose team had finished just out of the top six (the number that advance to state). By mid-week, the order had been adjusted, also resulting in a change in the team standings. With New Prairie bumped up to sixth place, its top runner, Tim O'Laughlin, was removed from the list of individual qualifiers, opening up a slot for Leipart.

"I told myself, I'm never going to let that happen again, the feeling I had that day," Leipart said. "Going back to my freshman year, I was never really dedicated. I never trained in the off-season."

So while COVID-19 has thrown a monkey wrench into all sports, including cross country, Leipart isn't going to let the less than ideal circumstances surrounding his senior season affect him.

"Everything's out of whack right now," Leipart said. "This is just our second meet. We haven't even run a full 5K. Our only race was 4K at the (Kankakee Valley) Hokum Karem. We had a couple meets canceled. The corona thing's not helping anyone, but people who stay out here are getting better. I'm doing anything I can. My perspective hasn't changed. I'm using the hardships as motivation. A lot of people are giving up as of now. You've got to get through it somehow. If you want to excel, you've got to put in that work. I hope to run beyond high school, especially if it helps me out (financially)."

Leipart held serve on his home course Thursday, pulling away from Illiana Christian's Brady Vroom, 10:04.4-10:06.7, in the two-mile race.

"He had me scared the whole race," Leipart said. "I knew two miles was a lot less than I'm normally used to running. The wind definitely had some effect. I had less to give out at the end. I was trying to pace myself better throughout the race. My coach wanted me to run a sub-10. It wasn't a traditional 5K. It was just supposed to get us used to running out here in the heat. It was 84 (degrees), super windy, humid. I've got cotton mouth so bad. The course is half gravel. I put in a surge toward the back ridge. I felt him coming up on me. For him to come up on me, that means he had to have lost something, so that's when I showed him the extra leg and tried to put him (away). Running in the harder weather makes the easy weather feel better."

While Leipart held off Vroom for the win, Vroom's Vikings claimed the team title, topping Victory Christian, 35-45.

"We've had quite a few meets cancelled, so it was great (Hobart was) able to get us in here on short notice," Illiana coach Jorge Ramos said. "It's a great venue, a spectator-friendly course, a good crowd. It was nice for the parents. It was nice to have this going on even though we're in the middle of a pandemic. I hope we have the state tournament, that we can keep running and continue the season for the athletes and parents, the whole running community. It's just good. We'll just take it one day at a time."

A long-time member of the Calumet Region Striders running club, Ramos helped out at Lowell before

Hobart's Bruce Leipart won the

Hobart Invitational on Thursday

at Big Maple Lake. Brady Vroom

of Illiana Christian was second.

becoming head coach at the Dyer school this season.

"It's the first year Illiana is eligible to run in the post-season, so the goal is to take them as far as I can as a team," Ramos said. "We don't have big numbers, but the kids work hard. They have a lot of heart and dedication. I'm grateful for that. Training is coming along. It's a different philosophy as a new coach, the way I train, but they seem to be adapting well. (Illana has) a good running lineage, but when they moved from Illinois, some of that was lost in the transition, but I'm eager for the challenge and excited about the opportunity."

Vroom was followed by Justin Van Prooyen in third and Fritz Olthof in fifth with Victory's Ben Fields in between. Both had three runners in the top 10.

"Brady and Justin are our one-two punch," Ramos said. "They pretty much interchange week to week. The boys actually executed better than I thought they would. We're looking good here at this part of the season."

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