About 30 miles south of Jamestown, N.D., and 20 miles north of Edgeley, N.D., is the farm where Edgeley-Kulm runner Isaac Huber was raised. The farm has soybeans, wheat, corn and cows. It's there where Huber learned to work.
"I honestly believe I'm a better person for growing up on the farm," Huber said. "Finding a balance between life, work and running has been kind of challenging at times, but you learn a lot."
After working all day on the farm, Huber would run to help get away from everything and clear his mind. He loved the individuality of running. He didn't need a team. It was all on him.
His final runs of his high school career will come this Friday and Saturday at the Class B state track and field meet at MDU Resources Community Bowl in Bismarck. But his career is far from over, as he'll head to North Dakota State after trying to repeat as a three-time champion in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200-meter runs.
"I'm really blessed to have got to this point," Huber said.
Huber's life could have been completely different had he not gone to Edgeley athletic director Todd Kosel with current teammate Lucas Nitschke and asked to start a cross country team the summer before his freshman year of high school. Huber had decided that summer to see how long he could run rather than focusing on sprinting. He felt it was more rewarding to run for an hour instead of sprints. He loved the feeling after a long run.
Kosel, then the football coach for Ellendale-Edgeley-Kulm, told the two as long as they played football, they could have a cross country team. Cross country is where Huber fell in love with competing in distance running. If that cross country team hadn't started then who knows where he'd end up.
"Maybe I would've stayed with football and just focused on the 400 and 800," Huber said. "I always think everything happens for a reason. It just happened and it was a good thing."
Kosel would've had no problem with him staying with football.
"He played some varsity as a freshman," Kosel said. "With his speed, he was gone."
Huber did cross country and football the fall of his freshman year, but decided to focus on cross country as a sophomore. He also played basketball in the winter and ran track in the spring. He won four straight regional titles for cross country, finishing third as a sophomore and junior before winning a state title last fall. As a junior, he won state titles in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 in track.
Huber enters the state track meet with the best 800, 1,600 and 3,200 seed time in the state, regardless of class. His 800 seed time is 1 minute, 55.76 seconds, his 1,600 is 4:17.72 and his 3,200 is 9:13.71. He's almost five seconds faster than anyone in Class B in the 800, almost six seconds faster than anyone in Class B in the 1,600 and just about 23 seconds faster than anyone in Class B in the 3,200.
Edgeley-Kulm track and field coach Jon Schiele met Huber when he was a gangly seventh-grader. In eighth grade, he took fourth place at regionals in the 800. That's driven him since.
"His work ethic and time he's put in has gotten him to where he is now," Schiele said. "He's taken it upon his shoulders to make himself better every day."
Huber runs year-round and mostly outside, regardless of the weather. He runs 40 to 50 miles during the winter, while also playing on the basketball team. During track season, he's going about 60 to 70 miles a week.
In the third week of cross country season, Huber got plantar fasciitis in his left foot, which can cause a stabbing pain in your foot. He still ran 50 to 60 miles a week. He dealt with the pain all season and still won the Class B state title by 17 seconds. In fact, dealing with plantar fasciitis with a physical trainer has led him to want to study exercise science and become a physical therapist.
"My dad always said don't make running your job, make it your passion," Huber said. "I took that seriously. When running becomes a job, then it's not fun."
He used to sleep in his jersey the day before a race. For cross country, he'll listen to music like the Eagles, but for track, it's Metallica or country. He stays off his phone, doesn't eat much and focuses before a race.
He qualified for seven events for this weekend's state meet. He'll try to repeat as the champion in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200, while also running in the 3,200 relay. On Saturday, his high school running career will come to an end.
He'll begin training for NDSU immediately because working is all he's known.
"Seeing the results of hard work is second to none," Huber said.