Running down a dream

Josh Echt

Inge’s legs, heart propel him to top

Middle distance runner Mike Inge is one of the top-ranked 800-meter runners in the country.

Credit: Andrew popik

He has his sights set on the 2008 Summer Olympics.

He has prepared for several years, training constantly and running every day.

Mike Inge is one of the best runners in the United States.

Week after week, month after month, Inge leaves his competition far behind. As of this week, he is ranked sixth in the nation in the 800 meters. He was ranked first just last week.

Inge and the rest of the track and field team will compete in the Kent State Tune Up Saturday at the Field House.

Inge, a junior, is the Kent State track team’s leading 800 meter runner and holds the school record with a time of 1:47.93. His personal best is 1:47.23.

“I enjoy the 800 meters because I know it so well,” Inge said. “I like how you can push your body to the limit.”

Inge started running at age 8. A year later, he participated in his first national meet, running the 400 meters in 65 seconds, a fast time for a 9-year-old. His experience and speed increased as he made his way through junior high and high school.

Brad Hunt, assistant distance coach recruited him to Kent State from Elyria High School after watching him at the Ohio state track meet in 2002.

“It was very apparent he was talented,” Hunt said.

Inge and his teammate, fellow 800-meter runner Ray Armstrong, went to the same high school and use their relationship to push each other. The two began their relationship through another sport altogether.

“I watched him play football in junior high,” Inge said. “He went to a different (junior high) school, so I didn’t get to meet him until high school. Ray is the guy that’s going to push me when I run the 800,” he said.

The two played football in high school but eventually decided to focus on track.

Inge said his current training regimen is more strenuous than high school.

A typical workout for Inge consists of lots of 200 meter sprints run at 800-meter pace, with 30 second rests in between. Sometimes, he will run 1200, 800, 400 and 200 meters at mile pace.

“I push the envelope, but I also evaluate what I could do better next time,” he said.

Inge’s rise to the top has not come without struggle.

“Staying healthy and finding the happy medium of training and running is the key,” he said. “Last year I probably raced too much.”

He said running track in college is more of a lifestyle than anything. Training, eating well, sleeping and managing time are the most important factors, he said.

He mentioned the coaching aspect of the sport and credits Hunt for his development.

“Coach knows how to push me and make me faster,” he said.

Kent State coach Wendel McRaven said Inge is an asset to the team. He said Inge brings a level of maturity and leadership to the table.

“He’s a great example for all of the younger athletes on the team,” McRaven said.

Inge credits his sisters, Angie, a high school state champion in the mile, and Amy, a former triple jumper at Kent State, for his inspiration. He also notes his mother’s contribution to his success.

“She comes to all the meets and is my number one fan,” he said.

In the future, Inge said he plans to go to graduate school after completing his undergraduate work with a degree in sports management. His ultimate goal is to become an athletic director.

In the meantime, he wants the team to be in the top 20 at the national meet in March and an indoor NCAA championship in the 800 meters.

Inge said he liked the team attitude prevalent at Kent State.

“There’s a team atmosphere unlike anywhere else,” he said. “Everyone is supportive of each other. The distance runners cheer on the throwers, the sprinters cheer the vaulters and the team comes together.”

Contact track reporter Josh Echt at [email protected].