Lebeau vying for nationals in debut season
Michael Riccio – Sports Editor
Christopher Lebeau has never ran cross country until this year, but captain Steven Cugini said Leabeu’s performances have already had a major effect on the team.
“Chris’ impact has been massive,” Cugini said. “He has shown the past couple of races that he’s been working hard and is dedicated to helping our team perform at the upcoming championship meets. Chris has solidified our top five, which is crucial for scoring and placing high as a team in races.”
At Bristol Eastern High School, Lebeau played soccer during the cross country season before running indoor and outdoor track, where he set school records in the 1600-meter and 600-meter races. Lebeau said even though he always liked running, he said he always thought he wanted to play soccer in college.
Brian Nill, the assistant cross country coach, who mainly coaches long distance runners, said once Lebeau arrived at Southern, his performance “took off.”
“From watching him run I could tell he had a lot of ability but it just wasn’t tapped in,” Nill said. “He’s our number one guy now. He kept getting better and better and just kept cutting time.”
Lebeau redshirted last season and did not compete in any cross country meets.
Nill said he did not want to waste a season of eligibility for cross country because he wanted to make sure Lebeau was in shape, so he just ran during the indoor track season. Nill said it has “been a crazy ride” for Lebeau since arriving on campus.
“He came in and he was kind of a middle distance guy, but watching him run he didn’t really have much speed so he kind of had to move up,” Nill said. “He just keeps improving.
For a guy that didn’t really have great times out of high school, he’s one of those guys that’s just going to keep getting faster and faster and you could see it kind of makes him happier to see what he can do now compared to high school.”
Cugini said last year was a big transitional year for Lebeau during his first year at college. Cugini and Nill both credited the level of training in college for preparing Lebeau as a cross country runner.
“The training in college is significantly more challenging than high school,” Cugini said. “He started to adapt to the higher level of training around indoor track, where he lowered his mile time down to 4 minutes, 17 seconds. Chris continued on from that success and has been consistently our number one runner for this season.”
In the first meet of the season, the Panther Invitational, the Owls had five top 20 finishers, with Lebeau finishing No..10 out of 117 runners. Lebeau then finished No. 7 out of 128 runners at the Kutztown DII Challenge. At the Paul Short Invitational, Lebeau placed No. 38 out of 367 runners. Lebeau said he was not expecting to perform so well during the first few weeks.
“It definitely feels good,” Lebeau said. “I was just trying to stay with my team, help them do my part in succeeding so it definitely feels good to be able to contribute.”
Lebeau said to prepare for meets, he is now mindful of how he prepares his body, something he did not do when he was younger. He said he especially pays more attention to the food he eats as well.
“I’ve never really been the best eater but before meets I always try to eat healthy and keep a balanced diet,” Lebeau said. “I definitely get a lot of sleep too because,
as a runner, sleep is important. If you feel fatigued, then you’re not going to perform well so you just pretty much have to set your body up for success.”
For the rest of the season, Lebeau said he is still trying to keep improving and wants the team to place third in regionals to make nationals. The Owls currently ranks third in last week’s U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association East Region rankings.
“That’s been a goal since last year,” Lebeau said. “I think it’s something if we keep working hard, keep hitting our times, it’s a possibility.”
Photo Credit: SCSU Athletic Communications