Kennebunk High School junior Abbey Leonardi not only set a goal to repeat as 3,200-meter champion at last Saturday’s New England Track and Field championships, she was intent on breaking the meet record.
When the field started too slowly, Leonardi went to the front and stayed there, finishing in 10 minutes, 19.03 seconds to beat the old record by more than six seconds.
“I was hoping I wouldn’t have to lead from the start,” Leonardi said. “At the 200 I felt the pace was slow. I was trying to run between 5:08 and 5:12 for the first mile.’
Leonardi had competed against many of the runners in the field and hoped they would push her a little more.
“I definitely had the record in the back of my head,” she said. “Last year I was only a second off.”
Next up for Leonardi is the New Balance Outdoor Nationals this weekend in Greensboro, N.C. Last year she placed fourth in the 3,200 in 10:26.
After that, Leonardi plans to take a short break before building a base for the cross country season.
At 5-foot-1 and 100 pounds, Leonardi doesn’t appear to be a lion on the track or cross country trails. But she emerged as the premier female high school distance runner in New England shortly after winning the N.E. cross country title her freshman year. She’s repeated since then in New England while dominating fellow runners in Maine.
Leonardi said by the end of either the track or cross country season, she’s ready for a change but at the same time admits longer distances are her forte. To that end, she and her father Jack are taking a conservative approach to her training.
“The most important thing in my mind is not to try to go too crazy this year, from getting too aggressive, too early in her career,” Jack said. “Nothing has been more important than that.”
Jack Leonardi oversees his daughter’s training in a very general sense, even less so since she become older and more knowledgeable.
“I oversee what goes on,” Jack said. “But her coaches are pretty much her coaches. She pretty much plans out her life. She knows what she needs to do.”
Leonardi placed second in the in Footlocker Northeast Cross Country Regionals last season to Ainsley Cuffe of Cornwall-on Hudson, N.Y. Cuffe went on to win the Footlocker Nationals last fall while Leonardi placed 16th.
She’’ll have Cuffe to contend again with this fall and would need to make a vast improvement to catch her.
“I think she’s pretty far ahead,” Leonardi said. “That would be a 20 or 25 second improvement.”
In the long run, Leonardi would like to earn a Division I scholarship from a school that is competitive both academically and athletically. A National Honor student, she pills down a 4.0 grade point average.
As a junior, she still has plenty of time to consider scholarship offers, although her twin sister, Aley, has already accepted one for soccer for Division I Stonybrook.
Leonardi’s short term goal is to increase her speed so she can out-kick the competition on the track and cross country trails. So far, at least in Maine and New England, she’s rarely been challenged.
SLOVENSKI FAMILY AFFAIR
Brunswick High School junior Mike Slovenski won the New England pole vault title with a height of 15 feet, three inches. Brendan Sullivan of Westford, Mass. also cleared 15-3 but Slovenski won based on few misses.
Slovenski comes from a family of pole vaulters, beginning with his dad Peter, the track coach at Bowdoin College and a former state record holder. Older brothers Steve and David also excelled at the event and each set state records.
David is the current state record holder at 16-2 1/2. A junior at Princeton, where Steve also competed, David was rated the top pole vaulter in Division I earlier this spring. He set an Ivy League indoor record over the winter with a height of 17-3 1/2 and has since added an inch to that in the outdoor season.
Mike will have a chance to compete against his older brother next season while a freshman at Harvard.
TRACK TITLES DECIDED
The Bonny Eagle boys and girls swept Class A state track titles contested at Windham High School. The boys nipped runner-up Edward Little by four points while the girls also won by four points over Scarborough. The title was the second for the boys and first for the girls.
Waterville boys and girls swept the Class B championships in Augusta.
The boys defeated Falmouth by seven points while girls won by 82 points over York. The Waterville girls won their fifth straight title while the boys won for the fourth time since 2006.
In Class C in Bath, the Maranacook boys won along with the Traip Academy girls. The Maranacook nipped Orono to win their sixth title overall and first since 1992. The Traip girls edged John Bapst to win their second championship and first since 1994.
3 SCHOOLS SWEEP TENNIS TITLES
Lewiston, Falmouth and Waynflete boys and girls teams swept tennis titles in their respective classes. In Class A, the Lewiston girls won their sixth straight championship with a 5-0 win over Scarborough. The Lewiston boys topped Scarborough 4-1 to win their eighth title in nine years.
In Class B, the Falmouth girls swept Waterville 5-0 for their fourth championship in a row while the Falmouth boys topped Ellsworth 5-0 to win their first title since 1998. led by state singles champ Patrick Ordway, nipped George Stevens 3-2 for their fourth straight title while the girls downed George Stevens 4-1 for their first championship since 2006.