When Kyle Schmidt moved to Hebron from Hammond back in middle school, distance running ranked way down on his list of interests.
"Hockey and football," Schmidt said. "I absolutely hated running."
Then classmate Jasen Egolf asked him to come out for track.
What Schmidt first thought was a joke turned out to be serious business, not to mention a close friendship. He was running a five-minute mile in eighth grade, forming a 1-2 combination with Egolf that's become the cornerstone of Hebron's distance program.
"When I took over, cross country, then track, we had a lot of fun, kids who worked hard, a couple of good runners, but no one who was super strong," Hawks coach Mike DeFries said. "Then these two came through, and we started building a program around them. Now we're getting guys ready to follow in their footsteps."
Schmidt's strides will take him to Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, a destination he would've never reached if not for Egolf.
"He's the reason I run," Schmidt said. "He's been there for me and with me."
Egolf, who will be going to Utah State, feels the same way about Schmidt.
"Running has brought us so much closer," Egolf said. "I respect him as a friend and he respects me. We've always been there for one another. We push each other. We motivate each other to run. We always pray together before and after races, talk about strategy, all the stuff I'm really going to miss. It's going to be hard, but sometimes you've got to go different ways."
Egolf has enjoyed a bit more success, qualifying for state twice, while Schmidt has always had his seasons halted at the regional.
"Kyle always played basketball, while Jasen ran all winter, so Kyle always starts behind the 8-ball in track," DeFries said. "He was running, but it was (sprinter) running, not (distance) running."
That's what makes Schmidt so enthusiastic about college.
"I think I can be a lot better than I already am, dedicating myself to just running," he said.
The duo begins their final post-season today with the PCC meet. Both will face stern challenges to extend their prep careers beyond the regional. Egolf has been posting strong 800 times, though his focus at that point figures to be the 1,600, while Schmidt's remains the talent-laden 3,200.
"Ever since (my freshman year), I've been going to get under 10 (minutes) in the two-mile," Schmidt said. "I ran a 10:03 Friday, which got me thinking, yeah, I can do this. That's my biggest goal of anything. (State) would be the icing on the cake. If I don't make it, I'll never have any regrets, knowing I never held anything back. That's all that counts to me."
Egolf can't help but think of what it would be like for both he and Schmidt to run their final races in Bloomington before their lives take them on new, divergent paths.
"Our dream has been to both go to state together," Egolf said. "That would be the coolest thing ever."
For DeFries, their success serves as a sign to those in their shadows of what they can accomplish. They will bring his total of Hebron runners in college to five.
"There are scholarship out there," he said. "There's a place for everybody."