AMBOY – A sign outside of Ohio states that “Small is Mighty,” and it refers to the 1986 boys basketball team that placed second at the Class A state tournament.
Those words could also apply to a current Bulldog: Brock Loftus.
A junior, Loftus emerged as one of the top runners in the area in the fall of 2020, as he placed either first (eight times) or second (three times) in 11 regular-season meets the Amboy-LaMoille-Ohio co-op team competed in. It was the result of pounding the pavement in the offseason.
This past spring, with track & field season in doubt due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Loftus decided the best way to deal with it was to work at his craft. He lives just a few blocks from Ohio High School, and developed several routes that took him up and down hills east of his community.
“When [COVID-19] first hit, I think it was March 13, that’s when I really started running hard,” Loftus said. “I never did too much in the summer, to be honest, for training. I was like, ‘Well, this is like a blessing in disguise. I can do as much work as I want to and improve as much as I want to.’ “
Loftus started running about 30 miles a week in the beginning, and was up to 50 miles a week by the time the cross country season rolled around at the end of August. That’s when his streak of high finishes began.
For those races, he wore a watch to keep track of his time. For the St. Bede Regional on Oct. 24, Loftus had something different on his wrist.
With a Sharpie, Loftus wrote down the mileage he had put in since training started in March. He wrote 1,100 on his wrist.
“When we got to regionals, I was like, ‘Your time does not matter. It’s a cross country race and it’s about where you place,’ “ Loftus said. “I wrote where my mileage was at, just to remind myself if I felt disappointed or lost belief in myself in the race, I could look down and be like, ‘I have worked as hard if not harder than anyone in this race that’s ahead of me. Why can’t I be with them?’ That was a confidence booster, for sure.”
Loftus finished second at St. Bede. The following week at the Seneca Sectional, with 1,150 written on his wrist, he finished sixth.
Had this been a normal season, Loftus would have led the Clippers to the IHSA state finals at Detweiller Park in Peoria. Instead, it was the end of the official high school season.
He did run in two more races, however. ShaZam Racing put on an unofficial state championship meet on Nov. 6 at Three Sisters Park in Chillicothe, and Loftus finished 51st out of 158 competitors.
Loftus also competed in the XC Town USA Meet of Champions on Nov. 15 in Terre Haute, Ind., and finished 118th of 298 runners.
Loftus plans to skip basketball season (if there is a basketball season) this winter to prepare in earnest for track & field, where he plans to specialize in the 1,600 and 3,200. Next fall, he’ll lead what could be a special Amboy-LaMoille-Ohio boys cross country team.
With the top seven runners back in the fold from a squad that wound up 10th in the ILHSXC rankings, the Clippers will be marked men, provided the COVID-19 pandemic situation has calmed down.
“Hopefully next year it’s all normal, and if it is normal, it’s really going to show,” Loftus said. “People are going to be shocked by this team. Those that know us, they’ll know what we can do.”
Loftus emerged as the team leader for the Clippers, a point driven home by head coach Michael Robinson.
“There were a couple of days I couldn’t make practice because of parent-teacher conferences, some appointments I had to go to, things like that,” Robinson said. “I said we’re not going to have an official practice at the school. He got everybody together and was like, ‘We’re still going to practice at school. We’re still going to do the workout that Coach gave us,’ and he led the way.
“It wasn’t something that I told him to do. He just stepped up and did it on his own.”
Loftus is the younger sibling of Lexi Loftus, a 2,000-point scorer as a basketball star for Ohio who is now attending Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville as a student only. Brock noted his big sister has had a positive influence on his athletic endeavors.
“Being such a good athlete in school, she has been a big help for me,” Loftus said. “Whenever I’m struggling with something, she’s always there to help. I can always call or text her, for sure.”
SVM Boys Cross Country 2020 All-Area Team
Andrew Bomleny, EP jr. – 19th at regionals, 44th at sectionals
Javon Bruce, Sterling sr. – 10th at WB6, 22nd at regionals, 36th at sectionals
Brock Drengenberg, Dixon sr. – won BNC, sick for regionals & sectionals
Ian Eller, Amboy jr. – 8th at regionals, 14th at sectionals
Jacob Gibson, EP fr. – 16th at regionals, 33rd at sectionals
Cadyn Grafton, Dixon sr. – 2nd at BNC, won regional, 30th at sectionals
Brock Loftus, Amboy co-op jr. – 2nd at regionals, 6th at sectionals, 51st at ShaZam
Matthew Marcum, RF jr. – 9th at BNC, 14th at regionals, 28th at sectionals
Kyler McNinch, Amboy so. – 3rd at regionals, 11th at sectionals
Briar Nevills, WC sr. – 2nd at regionals, 5th at sectionals, 94th at ShaZam
Lucas Simpson, Newman fr. – 11th at regionals, 51st at sectionals
Landen Summers, Newman fr. – 12th at regionals, 52nd at sectionals
HM – Elijah House, BV; Ken Boesen & John Craft, Newman; Ryan Hussung, Oregon; Carson Jones, Polo