MIKE McCLEARY/Tribune Bismarck’s Alex Neumiller finished second in the 300-meter hurdles and second in the long jump at the state track and field meet last season as a sophomore.

There are times when Alex Neumiller leaves Bismarck Demon track and field coaches shaking their heads.

And that's before a meet even begins.

He qualified in eight events last year. ... Our biggest problem with Alex is deciding which events he should do, said Dave Zittleman, who shares BHS head coaching duties with Darrell Anderson.

Neumiller, a 5-foot-10, 145-pound junior, qualified for the state meet in both hurdles events, the long jump, triple jump, 200, and the three short relays last spring.

With the approval of his coaches, Neumiller said he'd like to up the ante this year.

I'd like to qualify in the 100, 400, 800 and 4-by-8 relay, Neumiller said. The 800 would probably be the hardest for me to qualify in.

Qualifying has been the easy part for Neumiller, who has already placed in three state meets. Actually competing is another matter. Balky hamstrings have messed things up on two occasions.

As an eighth grader Neumiller qualified for state and placed fifth in the long jump with a leap of 20-10. A bad hamstring reduced his freshman season to essentially the West Region and state meets. He placed third in the long jump, again going 20-10.

Last season he claimed second in both the 300 hurdles (39.31) and long jump (23-01/4). Again he was hobbled. He went into the state meet with a state-best qualifying leap of 22-71/2. Elby Pope of Grand Forks Red River won with a 23-13/4.

I only got two jumps in because of a bad hamstring I got competing in the triple jump a couple of weeks earlier, Neumiller recalled. I landed wrong and tweaked a hamstring.

A fortnight after the state meet, Neumiller began a training regimen designed to ready him for this spring.

He ran distances of up to two miles, did hill workouts, weight training and went through an acceleration program twice.

So far, so good. He's run three indoor meets, winning three events. He won the high hurdles in one meet at the University of Mary and the 400 in the other.

In last week's state indoor he won the 400, placed second in the long jump, claimed third in the hurdles and fifth in the 200.

He leaves the indoor season behind as quickly as it's over. To him, indoor track is preparation for the real thing.

They're workouts, I guess, he said of indoor meets. You try but if you don't do well or have a bad day you don't get down on yourself. ... You come back and get ready for the outdoor season.

Topping Neumiller's wish list for the outdoor season is good health.

First off, no injuries, he said. I guess I want our team to qualify for Nike Nationals again ... and I hope I can qualify in the long jump.

Those are performances that would assure the Demons of their eighth straight state meet title.

Along the way, Neumiller plans to go record hunting.He's aiming for state meet records in the long jump and 300 hurdles and school records in the triple jump and 1,600 relay.

Last year we had a good shot at the 4-by-4. ... We'll have to see how the season goes, but we'd like to have another shot at that, he said.

Neumiller began running track in elementary school. In middle school track at Simle he thought of himself as a sprinter. Now he sees himself as primarily a hurdler and jumper.

The hurdles and jumps feel most natural for me. ... Sprints used to be my main thing but as I got to high school I started to focus on jumps and hurdles more. Now I feel more at home in those events, he said.

It's a guessing game from one meet to the next for Neumiller.

I'll probably find out my events a day or two before a meet, he said. I normally hurdle at a meet and last year they had me jump at every other meet. ... I ran the 4-by-1 most of last year. I think that was going to be my third event at state before I hurt my hamstring.

Neumiller was a running back at Simle. He continued with football until last fall when he sacrificed the sport in order to set the stage for track. He'd like to return to football next fall, but that depends on how his track season goes.

I wanted to focus on track and see how that went, Neumiller said. I'm contemplating playing football next year, but it depends on how this (track) season goes. I want to see if training in the off-season has helped me. ... I like football but if the off-season training pays off I'll probably skip football (next fall).

Obviously, track is the No. 1 sport in Neumiller's heart, and he said he's in a perfect spot to pursue his track and field dreams.

Bismarck is a great place for track. There's great tradition and we've always got depth in all of our events. ... We have a good all-around team and I hope our success continues, he said. I think this is the best place in the state to be if you're a track or cross country athlete.