Kicking It With Christian Leonard


(Photo provided by Christian Leonard)

First of all, how did you first get involved with running?

I first got involved with running when I was a freshman in high school when my cross country coach, Michael Niziolek sent me a letter in the mail expressing interest in me joining cross country.

What are all your personal records, including cross country?

400: 50.7 (4x4 split)

800: 1:59 (1:57.7 split)

1600: 4:24

5k: 16:12

Do you do, or have you done, any other sports?

I used to play baseball until my sophomore year. I alpine ski race as well. This winter, I played basketball in a recreation league and it was a blast.

What captured the interest of Coach Niziolek enough to send you a letter?

I'm not quite sure, but it may have been that my assistant coach, Coach Gilbertson, was my elementary school gym teacher and it may have been what he saw during the mile run that attracted the attention of the two of them.

What is your favorite or most memorable competition you've ever been in?

My sophomore year at sections. It was my first year of track and I had no idea what I'd be able to do. My coach put me in the 1600 and I was seeded ninth going in to the race. I ended up out-kicking 7 guys in the last 200 meters and secured myself a spot at State. It was one of the best feelings I've ever experienced

Other than your own teammates, who are some of your favorite athletes to compete against?

I really like competing with the guys in our conference. Especially in the 4x4. It's so hype and everyone is so into it. 

(Photo provided by Christian Leonard)

Who are some people that have been most helpful to you in your athletic career?

My parents and brother have been huge in my athletic career. They've always supported what I do, no matter what it is. My coaches have also been super helpful by preparing me for races and getting me to push myself harder in workouts and races. My teammates Tyler Hudson, Cory Warner, Peyton Holmes, Lucas Trapp, Jake Heyne, Noah Weege, Luke Gustafson, David Schwappach, Noah Haaf, Max Friese have all been incredibly helpful by pushing me through races and hard workouts and being there for me whenever I need it.

What is a challenge you have had to face as an athlete?

I would say the disappointment of a bad race. You go into every race feeling confident and ready to run fast and run hard and some days you have an off day. 

What are your main goals for this upcoming track season?

I would like to run 1:55 in the 800, 4:18 or lower in the 1600, and split sub-50 in the 4x4. I hope to have success at State in whatever events I end up competing in.

As a senior, how have your perspectives, strategies, or attitudes changed since you first started running, what advice would you give to younger track of XC athletes?

Since I started running my freshman year, I've really gained a more positive attitude towards everything in life. Running really has opened up the doors to so many opportunities for me. Because of running, I see myself as a much stronger and better athlete and student. I would tell younger track and XC athletes to never give up because midway through my sophomore year of track I was sitting at a 5:05 mile, by the end of the year I was at a 4:32. In the end we just have to trust the process. 

Do you have any college plans?

I plan to attend the University of Minnesota-Duluth. I'll run cross country and track there. I plan to study something in the sciences.

What were some of the things that attracted you to UMD?

I really liked the campus of UMD and they have a really strong engineering program with is something I've leaned towards over the past few years. I also love the city of Duluth. I saw myself fit in there best and I felt it was the best thing for me to do to better my future.