CORUNNA — Before the Division 2 regional track meet, Corunna coach Bryan Heid and senior Ben Jacobs talked about running lineups for the Cavaliers.
“He looked at me and said, ‘We can win the (3,200-meter) relay without you in it.’” Jacobs recalled Monday. “I said, ‘I think so, too.’ He said, ‘Then you only have three events (the 1,600, the 3,200 and the 1,600 relay).’ I said, ‘Put me in the 800.’ He said, ‘That’s a pretty gnarly day,’ and I said, ‘I’m a pretty gnarly kid.’”
That anecdote sums up Jacobs, a superior athlete who had a team mentality and a sharp wit, to boot.
Jacobs backed up the gnarly assertion by winning the 800, the 1,600 and 3,200-meter runs while competing on the 1,600-meter relay that finished second.
“If he would have told you he would do that, people would have laughed at you,” Heid said. “Then he went out and did it.”
The Cavaliers went on to finish fifth at the Division 2 state meet, with Jacobs winning the 1,600-meter title and running the anchor leg of the 3,200-meter relay.
Jacobs, who was the Argus-Press Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year in both 2017 and 2018, adds Boys Track Athlete of the Year to his impressive resume.
But being part of a team is crucial to his success, he says.
“I’ve always been a team-first kind of guy,” he added. “Anything I can do to make everyone else around me being the best they could be is always something I’ve done.”
“He would sometimes ask guys from other teams what they wanted to do today,” he said, chuckling. “He’s not out there just to win. He’s there to help others succeed.”
Jacobs had plenty of success, recording the area’s best times in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 as an individual, as well as being on the area’s best 1,600 and 3,200 relays.
It doesn’t just happen.
“His preparation is phenomenal,” Heid said. “He knows what our workouts need to be. He’s a student of his craft, and he sets the tone for our guys on how to approach every day. When you get to the meet, you’re ready.”
Meanwhile, Jacobs researches his opponents, watching film and setting up what he wants to do when the race begins.
“I know the guys around me and I know their strengths and weaknesses and my strengths and weaknesses,” he said. “I’m very tactical in every race I’m in. Sometimes I’ll wait until the last lap to take the lead, which is where I’m the most comfortable.”
But, in other cases, Jacobs has adjusted to help the team.
“There were some races this year where I personally would have waited until the end of the race and made it a sprint finish, but that wouldn’t have benefited my teammates and we wouldn’t have finished first and second,” he said. “So I went to the lead halfway through the race to try and see if we can get our other guys to break the field.”
They did, more often than not.
“I’ve never been able to do something just for myself,” Jacobs said. “For example, the SAT. I’ve never been able to make myself study hard and get a score for myself. But if I tell myself that if I can score better I can get into a better school, or get a scholarship so my parents don’t have to pay as much, that does more for me. It’s not saying if I run hard enough, I’ll win a state title. It’s more if I compete hard enough, I can contribute and help my team win a state title.”
Jacobs’ brother, Noah, had a brilliant career at Corunna and earned a scholarship to the University of Wisconsin. Noah won Boys Track Athlete of the Year three straight years from 2015 to 2017 and was also Cross Country Runner of the Year three times.
At times, Heid said, comparisons to Noah rankled Ben.
“He wants to be Ben Jacobs, not Noah’s little brother,” Heid said. “He doesn’t want to be compared to his brother, but to be appreciated for what he does.”
Asked if he had carved out his own legacy, Ben Jacobs said yes.
“I know people make it easy to make comparisons,” he said, “because we competed in the same sports, and we’re brothers. But I never thought about it that much. When he graduated, it went from his team to my being the best guy on the team, and I think I did a good job in being the best I can be while helping others be the best they can be.”
Jacobs said he had some unfinished business in his high school career, but that’s to be expected.
“I’m never going to be 100 percent content with all I do,” he said. “If you’re 100 percent content, then you’re not going to get better. I don’t have any major regrets, but just a few things here and there. I’m always going to be critical of myself, and I have been, which has played into my success.”
Jacobs will be a preferred walk-on at the University of Michigan in cross country and track beginning next month, where he will major in applied exercise science.
“The guys and the culture they have there, it’s a place I could see myself being the best athlete I can be,” he said. “I’ll be around people who are going to help me do that, and be the best student and best person I can be, ultimately.”
Argus-Press All-Area Boys Track Team
Athlete of the Year
Posted the area’s best times in the 1,600 (4:17.01), and 3,200 (9:22.17) while also running on the area’s top 1,600- and 3,200-meter relays. He had the second best time in the 800 (1:58.62). Will compete for U-M as a preferred walk-on.
He had the area’s second-best throws in both the shot put (47 feet, 5 inches) and discus (144-5). The shot put mark was 16 inches better than his previous best when he set it on April 28, then matched it at the Division 3 state meet. His discus best came at the end of a seven-day stretch which saw him record personal bests in three consecutive meets.
New Lothrop, senior
Harrison had a personal best time of 10.94 seconds in the 100 dash and was second in the area with a leap of 20-61/2 in the long jump. The University of Missouri football recruit also ran on New Lothrop’s 400- and 800-meter relay, which both were best in the area, and also competed in the 200 dash.
Lovejoy finished third in the state in the 800 (1:56.62) and was on the Corunna 3,200 relay team that took first at the Division 1 state meet (7:51.20). He also competed in the 400 and the 1,600-meter relay for the Cavaliers.
Bruckman had a big day at the Division 2 regional on his home track, setting a personal record in the 1,600 (4:27.63) and a season best in the 3,200 (9:32.80). He also was part of a powerful 3,200 relay that won four of the five races he was a part of.
He saved his best performances on the big stage, running the 110 meters in 15.61 at regionals, and covering 300 meters in 41.88 at the MMAC conference meet. His 110-meter time was second in the area by .01 second to Laingsburg’s Brady Hawks. He also competed in the pole vault and the 1,600-meter relay for the Marauders.
Zakoor was the only vaulter to clear 14 feet this season, 3 inches better than teammate Denver Orlando. It was his personal best, and it came at the Division 3 state meet, which was good for fifth place overall. It was 6 inches higher than his previous best.
(Carson Mulcahy, Will Muron, Trevor Bishop, Aidan Harrison)
The Hornets relay had season-best times at the Division 3 state meet using the same lineup, running the 400 relay in 43.34 to win a state title. That time was nearly two seconds better than its previous best, and the 800 was second in the state in 1:30.26, nearly four seconds better than its previous best.
(Mason Warner, Evan Roka, Will Strauch, Carter Lovejoy, Ben Jacobs)
Strauch ran in the 1,600 relay and Roka the 3,200 for the Cavaliers; the other three athletes ran both. The 1,600 team’s best time came at regionals (3:27.95), while the 3,200 saved its best for the Division 2 state meet, where it finished first in 7:53.20.
He won the discus and shot put title at the MMAC meet. His personal-best discus throw (151-3) was the county’s best and came at the Chesaning Track and Field Classic, while his top shot put (46-5 1/2) came at regionals, also at home.
He was second in the county in the 200 (23.26) and third in the 100 (11.34). He also ran on the 800 relay that was 10th in the state at the Division 3 meet and competed in the 400 relay for the Indians.
He had the area’s best time in the 200 (22.73) and was second in the 400 (51.13). He also ran in Corunna’s 800 (1:34.07) and 1,600-meter relays.
He was second in the area in the 1,600 (4:24.29) and also ran in the 800, 3,200 and the 1,600 relay for the Trojans.
Tanner Orweller, Perry
Had the area’s best time in the 300 hurdles (41.02), a personal best set at a Division 3 regional at Bath. He also had a PR in the 110 hurdles (16.3) at the same regional.
(Adam Kulhanek, Anthony Aguado, Jaden James, Brady Fraiser)
The 800 relay was second in the area at 1:32.92, set at the state meet last month. The time was more than a second better than its previous best.
(Thomas Heslip, Gage Ruddy, Micah Poletti, Jacob Black, Carson Hersch)
The Hornets were second in the area in both the 1,600 (3:30.94) and 3,200 (8:19.20). Ruddy ran in the 1,600 relay, which finished eighth at the state meet, while Hersch competed in just the 3,200 relay, which finished sixth.
He had the area’s best height in the high jump (6-5) and was third in the 800 (2:00.79). He also competed in the 1,600 and 3,200 relays for the Marauders.
Kaleb Anderson, Owosso; Gabe Baumchen, Corunna; Wyatt Crego, Corunna; Zach Hawes, Laingsburg; Brady Hawks, Laingsburg; Jacob Lockhart, Durand; Sam Marcotte, Owosso; Denver Orlando, Byron; Garrett Quackenbush, Chesaning; Sam Shively, Morrice; Nick Steinacker, Corunna; Jeffery Vanvelsor, Perry; Isaac Zamora, Chesaning.