If your running partners, figuratively speaking, are Corey Ihmels and Louie Koch, you’re in pretty good company.
Ihmels and Koch could say the same thing about Jake Leingang, who joined them in an elite circle a few weeks back.
Leingang became the third runner to capture three individual state cross country championships last fall, running the 5-K DIckinson course in 15:09.27. He joined Ihmels (1989-91), who is from Williston and Koch (1979-83) who ran for Raleigh St. Gertrude’s.
However, Leingang’s accomplishments transcend North Dakota’s borders, which makes the Bismarck High School senior an obvious choice as my top Class A high school sports story for 2012.
Shortly after running away from the field at the state cross country meet, he went on to win the Midwest and Heartland individual regional championships and finish third in the New Balance national cross country meet at San Diego.
Last spring Leingang was a double winner in the distance events at the state track meet and placed second in the 800. Then, shortly after his thrilling performance at the state meet, he went on to win on a national stage. He ran a 14:27.16 to win the 5,000-meter run at the New Balance Outdoor Nationals at Greensboro, N.C.
Two weeks later, he placed second in the Nike Elite Mile at Eugene, Ore., with a 4:10.60 clocking.
Going into his final high school track season, Leingang boasts five individual championships and one relay title.
2. RUNNING THE TABLE: The Bismarck Demons repeated as state Class AAA football champions the hard way, reeling off 12 wins.
Century in the state championship game for the second straight year, this time by a 21-0 margin.
Bismarck was playing in its sixth straight state championship game and won for the fourth time in five years. The Demons have a 17-game winning streak going.
The guts of the team was an unyielding defensive unit that surrendered a mere 3.8 points per game and posted five shutouts.
Much of the offensive damage was done by senior tailback Layne Johs, who rushed for 1,990 yards and scored 34 touchdowns. He was named the AAA senior athlete of the year and the state Gatorade football player of the year.
3. CHAMPS, AGAIN AND AGAIN: Bismarck track and field fans had a lot of scream and shout about at the Community Bowl in June. Bismarck’s boys won their ninth straight state track title and the Century girls took their second in a row.
The Bismarck boys won with 220 points, capturing four firsts. Jake
Leingang won in the 1,600 and 3,200 and the Demons won the short and long relays.
Century’s girls tallied 129 points to claim win comfortably. The Patriots outdistanced the field with depth, scoring in 11 events. Lauren Gietzen was the Patriots’ only individual titlist, soaring 11-0 in the pole vault.
4. BISMARCK, TIMES FOUR: Demon maroon dominated the state cross country meet at Dickinson as Bismarck runners swept both team and both individual championships.
The BHS boys won for the eighth straight fall and Jake Leingang claimed his third straight individual state crown by a wide margin. Bismarck’s winning total was 43 for a 59-point victory margin.
Bismarck’s girls posted a 42 to outdistance runner-up Century by 26 points. Century nipped the Demons by a point a week earlier at the regional meet.
Junior Brittany Brownotter led the way for the Demon girls, taking first place in the 4-K run 14:47.74.
n 5. TITLE TOWN: State championships flocked to the Capital City in 2012 with Century and Bismarck snaring four apiece.
Century ruled the roost in girls basketball, girls track, boys soccer and volleyball. Bismarck rose to the top in boys track, girls cross country, boys cross country and football.
The Century girls basketball team won for the second time in three years and the track and soccer teams repeated.
Three of Bismarck’s champions in 2012 were repeaters. The only exception was the girls track team, which won for the second time in four years.
(Steve Thomas is a Tribune sportswriter.)
Steve Thomas' top five covers his beats, including Class AAA football, and Class A sports volleyball, basketball, wrestling, cross country, track and field, tennis, golf, baseball, softball and gymnastics.