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First-Year Spotlight: Christopher Leonard Prepares for a Strong Panther Debut

By Andrew Smith

Adelphi’s cross-country team has been highly dedicated to training this off season to ensure a successful season. First-year student Christopher Leonard is among those hard at work as he prepares for his debut season as a college athlete—a moment he said he’s been working toward his entire life.

Leonard running during a match at high school. His family awaits him at the finish line. Photo by Stacie Leonard

Leonard grew up in Mansfield, Massachusetts where he attended Mansfield High School. He’s the first collegiate athlete in his family but many members of his immediate family and relatives also competed in high school. Leonard credited them as playing a major role in his love for the sport.

“They attend every race and are always at the finish line equipped with a camera and water. Without their constant support, I am unsure where I would be, if running at all,” he said.

Leonard spoke about the importance of his siblings. “My older brother and sister have always been very supportive, even if they are not able to make it to most of my races. They have both moved away from home, but they are always the first ones to send me support over text after races.”

Leonard said his parents were really into athletics as he grew up, “and would always take

First-year student Christopher Leonard Photo courtesy of AU Athletics

me outside to toss the football or play basketball. They had run many local road races over the years, and always encouraged me to sign up for cross country my freshman year.”

While he said he wasn't very eager to start running, his parents were insistent that he give it a try. “The love and support my family has provided me over the years has given me the opportunity to compete at the collegiate level and I cannot thank them enough,” Leonard added.

Several coaches have played an important role in Leonard’s development. He highlighted his coaches at Mansfield High School.

“A lot of people come to mind, but some of my high school coaches, Dave Barbato and Danny Horgan, played a huge part in my athletic career,” he said. “Barbato helped me develop mental toughness and the ability to be persistent in going after my goals. My most recent coach, Danny Horgan, taught me many lessons in discipline and control and how to persevere during rough patches in training.”

Leonard reflected on these teachings and is applying them to his training as an Adelphi athlete. As he was preparing for his first season in Garden City, he followed head coach Katie

Leonard with his teammates before a match.

Rees' off-season training plan. He described this plan as an “adjustment” compared to a high school program. However, he credits Coach Rees with assisting him with easing into college-level sports and said he is appreciative of the support both she and her staff are providing him and the other first-year athletes.

“I started off around 27 miles per week and have gradually increased to around 45-48 per week,” he explained. “My week is usually split into two workouts, a long run, and the rest is filled in with regular distance runs. Daily strength exercises were also incorporated into the plan this year, which was a large step up from the exercises in high school. This summer was definitely the hardest to date, as I logged 70 more miles this July over last July.”

While Leonard is excited to begin his first season as a college athlete, he is also looking forward to the opportunity in the classroom as a communications major. “I was looking for something broad, as I am unsure of what specific career field I would focus on,” he said.

He explained why he selected this university. “I chose Adelphi because of the welcoming community and the beautiful campus,” he said. “I first visited back in August of 2021 and really felt at home as I explored the campus. I also began talking to some people on the team pretty early on, which definitely helped in my decision.”

Leonard reflected on the journey that awaits him. “I am very excited to begin my first season as an Adelphi Panther and look forward to racing alongside my new teammates,” he said. “The new schedule will certainly be an adjustment, but I’m ready to begin my collegiate career at Adelphi.”

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