CHIPPEWA FALLS — He still had the 2-minute barrier to cross as he lined up for the start of the WIAA Division 3 800-meter championship last spring.
He was a relatively unknown sophomore from Chippewa Falls McDonell at the start of the race. By the end of what many consider the most grueling two laps in the sport, Isaac Bohaty was anything but.
Bohaty took the lead with just over a lap to go, stunning the field. He got passed at the end but wound up fifth with a time of 1 minute, 57.92 seconds. He was the only non-senior to finish in the top five.
“At state, I didn’t expect to hit 1:57,” said Bohaty, now a junior. “That was just a really good race. I was out in the lead for about 150 meters, and I just had guys to run with.”
After running a sub-30-second 200 at the end of the first lap, Bohaty lost that lead with about 250 meters to go in that state race. The focus since has been developing enough strength to finish that move.
“He ran much too quick from 400 to 600,” Macks coach Marty Bushland said. “That was about a 27. Then he ran a 31 or 32 on his last 200 and still finished with a 1:57. There’s so much room for improvement if he can clean up those splits.”
The endurance was already there. At least, there was an established well he can tap into. Bohaty, who ran mostly 1,600s and 3,200s as a freshman, runs cross country and went to the state meet last fall, placing 44th in Division 3.
So the next step was developing the foot speed and strength to withstand a quick burst and holding on to it in such a demanding yet tactical race.
Bohaty, who was a backup guard for the Macks’ 2016 state champion boys basketball team, didn’t play ball this winter. Instead, he beefed himself up in the weight room and has worked with the sprinters on his turnover.
He’s been running more 200s and 400s this spring and has those times down to a 23.5 and 53.82, respectively. Those are good marks to hit for a mid-distance runner. Now, it’s just a matter of stringing them together.
“Hitting the speed isn’t hard, I just have to try and make it feel easy,” Bohaty said. “That’s where the endurance comes in too. It’s just a combination of both.”
An 800 runner with that kind of range in foot speed and cardiovascular capacity, particularly in Division 3, is tough to come by.
“I keep telling him that he’s got an ace in his pocket he can lay down at the end of a race that most people don’t have,” Bushland said. “I’m hoping he’ll be in a position like last year to make a move but this year hold on and finish the deal.”
His goals are lofty. Bohaty, who also has high-jumped 6 feet this spring, wants a crack at the state meet record of 1:54.63. Bohaty has topped out at 2:01.15 this year. He’ll run the 800 at the resumed Western Cloverbelt meet today in Cadott.
Bushland knows that’s an extremely tall task and has told him so — especially since Bohaty will be running the 3,200-meter relay, which he anchored the Macks to a sixth-place finish in at state last year — as well as the 1,600 relay at regionals on Monday. His versatility will be needed in order for McDonell to score as many points as possible.
“It’s an evolution with Isaac trying to get him to figure out how to maximize potential,” Bushland said. “You obviously have to know what you’re doing and how to react to what everybody else is doing.”
He peaked like crazy at the end of the year and raced competitors instead of the clock at state to earn a podium spot.
Bohaty, who sat in the bleachers as an eighth-grader when former McDonell star Nick Zander set the Division 3 state meet record in the 1,600 — a 4:11.63 — back in 2014, is hoping to add another name to the champions wall at McDonell come early June.
“I do remember Nick’s 4:11 run at state, and I just thought that was absolutely amazing,” Bohaty said. “All the hard work he put in paid off, and he always had a good attitude. So I just tried to emulate that, and it’s paying off.”