There are times when it might seem as if Mitch Leitch and Jake Mandel are joined at the hip.
The senior distance runners for the Dublin Jerome High School boys track and field team both ran cross country in the fall and are competing in the 3,200 meters this spring. Next year, both will be running cross country and track at Ohio State.
"We ran 400s in preseason and we both finished with the exact same time," Mandel said. "We were in different heats and everything. I guess we are pretty much the same runner.
"We push one another, and that makes us both better."
According to Jerome distance coach Dave Stroh, while their results may be similar, they don't take the same approach to distance running.
"They are like one runner when training. They are joined at the hip in that way," Stroh said. "They feed off of each other's energy.
"As runners, Mitch likes to go out harder and reach the red zone early. Jake starts slower and works to kick people off. Once he starts building, it's hard to stay with him."
Last spring in the Division I state meet, Leitch placed sixth in the 3,200 in a program-record 9 minutes, 17.02 seconds and Mandel finished 11th (9:27.13). They also competed at state in the 3,200 relay with Graham Stecz and Nick Foley, finishing 16th (8:06.88).
"They both have the hard work (ethic), the genes and the talent to be good distance runners," Stroh said. "They work really hard and that probably is what sets them apart."
In the Division I indoor state meet March 8 at the University of Akron, Leitch placed fourth in the 3,200 (9:28.17) and Mandel finished sixth (9:30.05). They also teamed with Foley and Stecz to place fourth in the 3,200 relay (8:03.99).
The same four runners combined to set the program record in the 3,200 relay (8:04.08) last spring in the regional meet.
Leitch said he gets as much enjoyment from running cross country and relays as he does competing in individual events.
"Both have their perks," he said. "It's nice to be on a team and on relays with other guys. We're all motivated to get back to state (in the 3,200 relay)."
Leitch moved to Dublin from Toronto, Ontario, before his sophomore year.
"The sports are a little more structured here (than in Canada)," he said. "Everyone is a little more motivated, especially (compared to) my school (in Toronto), where the kids were pretty much goofing off. I like the structure a lot better."
Jerome finished second (105 points) in the Division I state cross country meet last fall behind Cincinnati St. Xavier (45).
"I think finishing high (in the state meet) in cross country really gave us a lot of confidence," Mandel said. "It started our senior year out on the right foot and, hopefully, we can do well at state (in track)."
Leitch plans to compete in the 5,000 and the steeplechase at the college level, and Mandel expects to run the 5,000 and 10,000.
"There would be no better way to go out than to finish 1-2 (in the 3,200) at state," Leitch said.
"That would be a great way to finish high school."