Kaleb Simpson loves to run competitively because it feels like everything is on his shoulders.
The St. Charles senior track and field standout doesn't like to depend on anyone else when he sprints down his lane. He knows his performance comes down to his preparation and execution.
Simpson was expected to be one of the top sprinters in central Ohio this spring, but the season was canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. He's now preparing to compete for Eastern Michigan.
"Track is an individual sport and that's one of the things that I like about it," Simpson said. "There are not a lot of factors that can have an effect on it.
"The officials can't affect the outcome. It all comes down to what you have put into it. I like to see how well I have improved since my last meet. That's the great thing about it."
Simpson's performances seemed to come out of nowhere last season after injury-riddled freshman and sophomore seasons. He qualified for the Division I state meet in the 100 meters by finishing second (10.89 seconds) at regional, but was slowed by a hamstring injury at state and finished 18th (11.48).
Also at regional, Simpson suffered leg cramps in his best event, the 200, and finished eighth (55.85). He finished first in the 200 preliminary in a program-record 21.58.
"Kaleb hasn't even scratched the surface of his potential," St. Charles coach John Leskovich said. "Once he gets up there at Eastern Michigan and trains year-round, the sky will be the limit. He could be a (Mid-American) Conference champion by the time he is at least a sophomore."
Leskovich said the manner in which Simpson trains has led to his success.
"His work ethic is incredible," Leskovich said. "He really is a generational talent. We might not see someone like him (at St. Charles) for a while.
"Once he started to believe in himself and what he could do, everything took off for him. He always was there for lifting and optional workouts. He was always there in November (for the indoor season) leading the way for us."
On Jan. 18 in the Jerome Fields Open at the University of Akron, Simpson had the top time of 6.99 in the 60 preliminaries but suffered a right hamstring injury that would end his indoor season. He had been rehabilitating the injury before the spring outdoor season was canceled.
"(This spring has shown) that you have to make every day and every workout count," Simpson said. "You never know when something is going to be taken away.
"When you love the sport like I do, you have to make do with what you get. You can't take anything for granted and appreciate what you get."
Simpson said Leskovich helped take his abilities to a new level.
"Coach Leskovich became my head coach as a sophomore and he showed me just how much of a difference that a coach can have on you," he said. "A coach can affect how well you perform on the track and as a person. They can have an effect how you think and the love you have for a sport.
"He told me that he had high expectations for me, and I have been lucky to have him as a coach and role model."
Simpson said the Eastern Michigan coaching staff wants him to run the 100 and 200 and maybe the 400 as well as relays.
"The relays are definitely fun events, but I still like the individual races the best," he said. "In the relays you're having fun and running with teammates, and I like to do that. Getting close with relay teammates makes it a lot of fun. You all get to contribute in one race."