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Lake Forest High's Bund an Unexpected Cross-Country Talent

Junior Billy Bund is breaking records in the 1600 meters and has only scraped the surface.

When he entered for his freshman year, Billy Bund figured his athletic path would point him to the football and baseball fields.

Now, as he prepares for the home stretch of his junior year, he’s thinking about records, particularly the 1600, on the outdoor oval.

“My background was football and baseball; I had never competed in track or cross-country,” he said. “During my freshman year, I was a wide receiver and kick returner on the football team and played outfield for the baseball team.”

But then some of his friends on the track team, along with former head coach (now assistant) Denis Sheeran, started bending his ear. They finally convinced him that 70 to 90 miles per week of offseason workouts for cross-country could be more fun that two-a-days on the gridiron. The rest may be history in the making.

“When we did sprints in football, I wasn’t the fastest one out there, but I could endure them for longer periods of time,” Bund said. “I came out for cross-country my sophomore year, got injured early but was able to come back and run in the bigger meets at the end of the season. I wasn’t happy with the way things turned out, so I worked out like crazy over the winter and was determined to make an impact in track.”

Instant Impact

Bund envisioned the 3200 as his primary race. But it did not take long for the coaching staff to figure out his best route to the state meet would be in the 1600.

“You could tell right away he had the right frame of mind for a distance runner and it was just a matter of putting him in the right place,” said John Brumund-Smith, who switched positions with Sheeran this year and is now the Scouts’ head coach. “Once he started experiencing success, it was breeding more success.”

Bund hit his high at last year’s Lake County Meet. He finished sixth but came home with a sophomore record of 4 minutes, 26.91 seconds.

“I stayed with the leaders for most of the race and got out-kicked in the end,” Bund recalled. “I wasn’t really going for the record that day, but then I heard my 800 split and I decided to go for it.”

Lessons Learned

Two weeks later, his inexperience as a first-year runner was exposed against a tough sectional field. Hoping to earn a bid to the state meet, he took a tumble in the second turn.

“I did a barrel roll, came up on my feet and sprinted to get back up with the leaders,” he said. “That wasn’t a great idea because when it came time to reach back for something extra, I didn’t have it.”

Raw on talent and lean on experience, Bund learned another lesson about his body during the past cross-country season. While hitting the home stretch in a rugged Palatine Invitational, he felt a tweak in his hip.

“Instead of making sure I fully rested the hip, I went out and did two hard workouts on back-to-back days that week,” he said. “That only made things worse.”

After resting for two weeks, Bund convinced Scouts cross-country coach Nate Sweet to put him in the lineup for the North Suburban Conference meet. Still feeling the effects of the injury, Bund labored to finish 25th, grabbing the final all-conference slot, and helped the Scouts earn fourth in the team standings.

“I think that run was a testament to Billy’s character,” Sweet said. “We could have held him out another week and rested him for the sectional, but he wanted to come out and help his team.

“We couldn’t run him in the sectional, but he’s a very hardworking young man, and he does what he has to in order to be successful. He never cuts any corners in his training.”

Breaking Away

Fully rested from any lingering hip problems, Bund already is blazing his way around the oval early this spring. He broke out with a personal best 4:25.8 in the 1600 during a dual meet with Wauconda.

“He lapped nearly everyone on the track and beat the second-place runner by 35 seconds,” Brumund-Smith said. “Unlike most runners, where you have to stay on them to work hard, you have to treat Billy like a jockey riding a thoroughbred. You have to keep pulling back on the reins to keep him from overworking. He still doesn’t know a medium pace during workouts.”

According to Brumund-Smith, the best from Bund is still yet to come.

Running the anchor leg in the distance medley at the recent Prospect Relays, Bund recorded a 4:23.2 split while bringing the Scouts the victory. He took the baton 8 seconds behind the leader and wound up winning the race by 8 seconds.

“I didn’t even know there was a runner in front of me,” Bund said. “I didn’t spot him until the final lap and I could see he was laboring.”

Bund enjoyed the opportunity to participate in a relay and hopes to see more chances this season.

“I would really like to run a relay because I’m into the team mentality,” Bund says. “My endurance has really picked up this year, and I think I have a strong mental approach to my races. The fact I am running to help my team is my greatest motivation.”

The Lake Forest coaching staff is considering other events to enter Bund, but the 1600 will remain the primary focus.

“We’ll probably play around with him in the 3200 and 800 as well as a couple of relays (4x800 and 4x400),” Brumund-Smith said. “But if he makes it to the state meet, it will probably just be the 1600 because the distance races in Illinois are tough and we don’t want to burn him out with two races. The big problem this year is he hasn’t had any competition.”

It’s not the Shoes that Make a Runner, but the ...

“The funny thing about Billy is if you see him in the hallway, you don’t think athlete because he’s barely 6 feet tall and weighs around 120 pounds,” Brumund-Smith said. “But once he’s on that track, he’s one serious competitor. You see that $120 pair of shoes, you figure he must be pretty good because you don’t spend that kind of money on shoes unless you’re pretty serious.”

Bund chuckles when he hears his coach’s comments about the shoes. “With all the running I’ve been doing, I’ve been through a lot of shoes,” he says. “And I have seen some pretty good runners in a $40 pair of shoes.”

Bund knows one of the oldest Lake Forest records is the 4:10.15 mark set by Rich Harris when he took third in the state in 1975.

“That’s definitely a goal because that would be among the elite in the nation, but for now I’m focusing on getting my time down to sub-4:15,” he said. “If I can get my times down there, I will seriously be thinking about running in college.”

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Alex Mueller April 12, 2012 at 11:01 AM
Billy is one of the hardest working kids I've ever worked with. He's also very modest about his talents. Keep up the good work Billy. Alex Mueller

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