Runner looking to make his mark at 800 meters

Runner looking to make his mark at 800 meters
March 24
00:00 2016
Photo by Craig T. Greenlee
Sophomore Jeremy Kankula of Atkins is ranked No. 3 in the state in the Class 1-A boys’ 800 meter run by the NCRunners web site.



For middle-distance runner Jeremy Kankula of Atkins, the recollections of last year’s Class 1-A state track meet are memorable for all the wrong reasons. At that time, he was a freshman who had made an immediate impact as a legitimate contender in the 800-meter run.

Kankula had a forgettable outing in his specialty event on that day. Prior to the state, he had posted the state’s fourth-fastest time. At the championships, however, he bombed out in major-league fashion and finished 13th –which was easily his worst performance of the season.

Fast forward one year and it’s a different story. Kankula, now a sophomore, is causing folks to sit up and take notice. He’s No. 3 in the 1-A state rankings for the 800 on the NCRunners web site. Given how early it is in the outdoor season, there’s no doubt that Kankula will continue to lower his times.

“Jeremy has what it takes to win the 800 at the (1-A) state meet,” said coach Rufus Crouch. “Aside from being very self-disciplined, he’s smart and he works harder than anybody else.

“I give him a separate workout from the other runners because he’s always leaving people behind. You have to give him extra or double what everybody else has.”

Looking back on his freshman season, Kankula acknowledges that his dismal state championship showing added more fuel to his competitive fires for the current season. He expects to make amends.

“I had a terrible 800 on that day,” said Kankula, who has a 3.6 grade-point average. “That loss was very devastating and it made me stronger.  I don’t want me or my teammates to have that feeling again. But I’m not dwelling in the past. Instead, I’m moving forward. At the same time, though, I look at the past so I can make the necessary corrections.”

Kankula, who’s interested in pursuing a career as a computer software engineer, has a genuine shot at competing for a state 800 title in May. A year ago, he was the runner-up in the Midwest 4-A Regional and the Northwest Conference championships.

Earlier that season, he pulled off a surprising fourth-place finish in the Brent Invitational, which is unofficially known as the City-County Championship. Not only did he place among the top four, but he ran a personal best in the process (1 minute, 59.73 seconds).

Last year’s state meet wasn’t a total bust. Kankula ran a leg on the Camels 4×400 relay team that earned a medal by finishing fourth. This year, Atkins is considered one of the prime contenders to win that relay event at the state championships. At this point in the season, Kankula is beginning to find his comfort zone. At the end of the indoor season, he suffered a knee injury and was ordered to sit out for two weeks to get some much needed rest. He returned to the team well rested and clocked 2:07.10 in an early-season meet, which resulted in his current state ranking.

“I’m a little surprised by the ranking,” said Kankula, who also runs the 1,600. “With my training, I know that in order for me to be at my best, I have to find the right equilibrium between speed and stamina.”

Even though Kankula still has about two-and-half years of high school eligibility remaining, he has his sights set on running track at Auburn University. Given his academic standing and his rate of track progress up to this point, there’s no question that Kankula will field his share of Division I offers by his senior season.

As a second-year high school runner, Kankula is already receiving letters of interest from Division II and lower-Division I programs, according to Crouch. So, it should come as no surprise that the interest level among college recruiters will continue to grow.

“Jeremy is determined to win and he hates losing,” said Crouch. “By the time he’s a senior, he’ll be one of those names (in the 800) that you won’t forget. This kid will be something big.”

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Craig Greenlee

Craig Greenlee

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