HOBART | John Petroskey has always had an inkling to get into the spotlight. Just a bit anyway.
As a freshman at Hobart four years ago, he went down with teammates to the IHSAA state cross country meet. After Indianapolis North Central's Futsum Zienasellassie won his third straight state title, Petroskey walked up to him.
With a comb in his hand, he did an interview that became a YouTube hit among Indiana's distance runners.
"I always have a comb with me," Petroskey said. "Every day and I don't know why."
The next year the Brickie made it to state in cross country with the rest of the team. But it was a failure of making it to state in cross country last fall that has been Petroskey's biggest motivator.
Losing teaches much better life lessons than winning, some say.
He did not get out of regionals last year as an individual in track, although he did make it on the Brickies' 3,200 Relay Team. The individual pain has stayed with him for a full year.
"I was about 12 seconds off," Petroskey said of his cross country let-down last fall. "I went home and said, 'Don't ever forget how you feel right now.' And I haven't."
So in this most recent winter, where Global Warming was wearing knickers and a scarf, Petroskey hit the pavement with a little anger and spunk. A frozen face was not going to keep his training next to the fireplace.
"This was the hardest I've ever worked in the offseason," Petroskey said. "I ran in blizzards. Extreme cold. It didn't matter. Not only did it make me physically stronger. It made me mentally stronger.
"And everyone knows that this sport is very mental."
At last Saturday's Little 5 competition at Hobart, Petroskey won the 1,600 meters (4:27) and the 3.200 (9:47). He had a personal record in each event last week.
Hobart coach Ty Artherhults has seen the hard work pay off for the student who is No. 8 in his class, academically.
"John has really grown up over the winter," Artherhults said. "I've seen a transformation in him. His overall attitude has really improved. I think he's more comfortable in his leadership role now.
"He leads all of our workouts. He's the guy at the front of the pack."
Petroskey's colorful personality is seen at practices and down time, too. He and the other distance runners are like a second debate team, arguing about video games, music and pop culture.
Trying to get the last word in is like trying to be the guy at the front of a race making that last turn left.
"I'm not sure which race I'll be in during the postseason," Petroskey said. "There are a lot of great distance runners in this area. It doesn't matter to me. Maybe even a relay, who knows.
"It doesn't matter to me. The state meet is the state meet and if you get there in something it's very good."
The state meet is in June. Petroskey is hoping to be there, with someone else holding the comb interviewing him.