Photos by J. Alan Paul Photography and NDSU Athletics
Jake Leingang is one of the most accomplished runners in North Dakota high school history. His 11 state titles in track and field and four in cross country back that statement up. After beginning his college track and field career at national powerhouse the University of Oregon, Leingang returned to his home state and is making an impact on the already-successful Bison program.
Pride Of The Prairie: Jake Leingang
- Track & Field
- Long Distance
High School: Bismarck High
Oregon by the Numbers
Three-time second team All-American in the 5,000-meter run (outdoor 2015, indoor 2015-16, outdoor 2016). His personal record at Oregon is a 13:43.04.
NDSU by the Numbers
2016-17 indoor: Set NDSU school records in the 3,000-meter (8:06.18) and 5,000-meter (14:01.32). Placed 3rd in the 3000-meter, 4th in the mile and 5th in the 5,000-meter at the Summit League Championships
Everything was going well athletically for Jake Leingang at the University of Oregon. The Bismarck native was a three-time second team All-American in the 5,000-meter run as a sophomore and junior. But as he began to look at his future, he decided he wanted to go to a school with a better physical education program. Leingang gave North Dakota State a call and said he was looking at transferring. The Bison found a spot for him on the track and field roster and Leingang enrolled in his required classes.
Not to mention he was back in his home state.
“The thing that made it really easy is that North Dakota is such a great state to represent,” Leingang said. “I went through high school representing North Dakota and couldn’t ask for a better career there. To come back, it’s an honor to represent this state again.”
At Bismarck High School, Leingang won 15 state titles in track and field and cross country. He also won back-to-back national prep titles at 5,000 meters. Now as a senior at NDSU, he is one of many North Dakota athletes representing their state. Of the 60 members on the men’s roster, 24 are from North Dakota. Nine of those 24 are from Bismarck.
“That’s the special bond that we all have. We’re all from the same state or the same general area,” Leingang said. “It’s easy for me to get along with this team. We have that one thing in common instead of people from all over. We’re from North Dakota and know how it is and we get along great.”
Leingang has made a difference instantly with the Bison. He broke the school’s indoor record in the 3,000-meter (8:06.18) and 5,000-meter (14:01.32) last winter. Leingang played a big role in NDSU’s second straight Summit League indoor title, taking third in the 3,000-meter, fourth in the mile and fifth in the 5,000-meter at the conference championships. He sat out the outdoor season due to an injury.
The men’s team has won eight straight Summit League outdoor titles dating back to 2010. The women’s program has won 10 straight conference indoor and outdoor titles since 2008. It’s the same mentality and standard Leingang experienced at Oregon.
“I do see similarities in the coaching staff,” he said. “The mindset they have is so motivating. They all have a great goal and that’s to win the championship. It doesn’t matter what the title is, whether it’s the Pac-12 or the Summit League. Our goal here is to win and that was the same goal out there.”
Leingang said he feels a sense of home-state pride now that he’s back running in North Dakota.
“It’s the tradition and the legacy they promote and tell their student-athletes. Coach (Don) Larson has been here for how long and he runs a great program.”
Questions & Answers With Jake Leingang
Bison Illustrated: When you left North Dakota for Oregon, was there anything you thought you wouldn’t miss, but now realized that you did?
Jake Leingang: “The first thing that pops into my mind is the weather. I was 100 percent certain I was not going to miss the weather. But you go out to Oregon and it was rainy, so I was still training with those elements. It was easy to come here because it wasn’t the greatest weather out there either.”
BI: When NDSU goes to the bigger meets, like an Iowa State, do you feel those bigger programs underestimate you guys because you’re coming from North Dakota?
JL: “When we go out to those meets, they might think about underestimating us. But we’ve been there before and have performed well. They might underestimate us for a little bit, but at the end of the day we’ll do our best to perform and prove them wrong.”