Cam Leonard, an eighth-grader at the Immaculate Conception School, recently broke the Maudslay State Park course record for a middle school cross-country runner in the 2-mile race.
Leonard started running cross-country last fall as a seventh-grader and broke the IC school record in his first race with a time of 12:47. Later that season, he lowered the standard with a time of 12:41, giving himself a new goal for his eighth-grade season.
Leonard wasted no time in running a fast time this season, clocking an 11:38 in the season-opening meet last week. Fresh off his record-setting performance, he took the time for a question-and-answer session with The Daily News.
What was your athletic background before you started running cross-country?
“When I started in seventh grade, I had already played soccer, baseball and basketball. I played a lot of sports, but I didn’t do much distance running. I was in pretty good shape, just not for long running races.”
Did running long distance come easy to you?
“I liked it a lot. When I first started, I broke the school record in my first race. I guess I was a natural; I didn’t need much training. It was a pretty good first meet.”
Did you find the competition in cross-country different from that of team sports?
“It was kind of similar to competing in other sports, especially soccer. I do a lot of running in soccer, and I know how to pace myself to the point that I’m not sore or tired or winded. Soccer helped a lot with that.”
Did you train differently over the summer after having a year of cross-country experience?
“Over the summer, I ran a lot. I did the Thursday night Maudslay races that (Newburyport coach Don Hennigar) runs. This year, I was more prepared for the season. I had a plan that first race. I knew where to slow down and where to get faster. The training helped a lot. I felt good the entire time. I didn’t feel tired.”
Have you ever run track before?
“My school doesn’t have track. There’s an after-school program run at the Bartlett Mall. I ran a Winner’s Circle race at the Fuller Track this summer. I did the 2-mile race in 11:52. It was the first time I went under 12 minutes.”
Cross-country and soccer are both fall sports at the high school level. Have you thought about which sport you’ll play?
“It’s kind of a tough decision for me. I like soccer and all, but right now, I like cross-country a little better. If I had to make the choice now, I’d go with cross-country, but I haven’t decided yet.”
Are you on a soccer team this fall?
“I play Newburyport in-town and club soccer for the Aztec.”
Who is your favorite professional athlete?
“American (marathoner) Ryan Hall.”
What is your pre-race routine?
“I get focused before a race. There’s no music or anything, just warmup and stretches.”
What’s your favorite subject in school?
What do you like to eat/drink before a race?
“Gatorade energy chews.”
What is your ideal training distance?
“I’d say a 5K. It’s long enough to do endurance, and not too short. I run that distance when I’m training.”