If somebody saw Jake Mazanke in action last weekend, they wouldn’t know he only started competing in track and field during his sophomore year of high school.
Mazanke, a mid-distance track runner, dominated the 800-meter race in Bloomington, Indiana, on Jan. 24. With a time of 1:51:39, Mazanke not only achieved a personal best, but also the eighth fastest time in Loyola history.
Mazanke followed that up on Jan. 30 in Bloomington when he set a personal record for the second week in a row, this time in the 600-meter race with a time of 1:18:56.
Despite the fact that his parents were both track athletes at Eastern Illinois University, Mazanke’s focus in high school was on football, the sport he had been playing since he was 7 years old. As a wide receiver for St. Charles East High School, Mazanke only ran track during football’s offseason to stay in shape.
The 20-year-old broadcast journalism major had a breakout year in track and field his junior season at St. Charles East while he was already going through the recruiting process for football. He made it to the state final and ended up placing 10th in the 800-meter event.
“No one really expected it. I [had] only run it a handful of times [and I] didn’t really know what I was doing,” said Mazanke, a junior at Loyola. “And after that I really just fell in love with the sport.”
After his impressive display at the state meet his junior year of high school, Mazanke began to catch the attention of various colleges. Although he continued to play football his senior year, Mazanke switched his focus to track.
“[Running] was never really a thought until my junior year when I started running well,” Mazanke said.
He continued to worked with his high school coaches and ended up placing third in the 800-meter event at the state meet his senior year.
Mazanke then made the decision to be a Division I track athlete when he chose to sign with Loyola in February of 2012. Nebraska, Iowa State, Eastern Illinois and North Central College also showed interest in bringing Mazanke to their track programs.
“I decided I didn’t really want to go very far from home,” said Mazanke, a St. Charles, Illinois, native. “I came [to Loyola] and I really fell in love with it and decided to come here. It gave me the best … educational and athletic opportunity. The coaches here were great [and] I really liked the team when I came in. I think that was probably the biggest part. I got along with everyone here.”
Along with running for Loyola’s track and field team, Mazanke writes for The PHOENIX and produces his own segment on the Rambler Sports Locker — a student-run broadcast sports show — all while keeping an impressive 3.88 GPA and crushing records on the track team. He was awarded scholar athlete of the week — an award that recognizes athletes who excel in academics — on Jan. 29. The award was his first honor of the season and second honor of his career.
“He’s very disciplined in pretty much everything he does in school and on the track,” said Peter Archibald, Mazanke’s teammate and roommate. “Being at this level, it’s required for everyone to be disciplined in their training and getting proper work done. And he’s very strong mentally, which is one of the biggest [problems] that we have to face as being a runner.”
Archibald runs in many of the same races as Mazanke, and the two have competed together since high school.
“We kind of have this ongoing competition between us on the track, but it’s also kind of nice,” Archibald said. “And none of the competition on the track carries over to our everyday relationship with each other as far as being best friends and roommates. But then again it’s also fun. It’s a friendly competition that we have and it’s enjoyable and it’s just like any other teammate really.”
Mazanke said that he has high hopes for this indoor season.
“We have a lot of really talented [runners] and I think we have some guys that can do some damage in the conference,” Mazanke said. “And with the way that things are shaping up I think we’ll have the opportunity to take a [distance medley relay team] down to nationals.”
Starting out the season by crushing personal records is a good indicator that this season is going to be one of continuing improvement for Mazanke and an exciting one for the Ramblers.
Keep up with Mazanke and the Ramblers in their next meet on Feb. 6 at the Meyo Invitational in South Bend, Indiana.