Victoria Leeder missed the electricity of spring this year.
A mainstay on the Eastern girls track and field team, Leeder’s favorite events were the ones where a crew of Comets ran as a team.
“My favorite event would have to be the 4x800 meters or distance medley relay,” Leeder said. “I loved running relays and participating in events with my team members. There is a certain rush that comes with handing off and picking up a baton. And when you experience a win, it is a win for your whole team, not just for you.”
Cross country and track and field aren’t team sports, unless you make them so. When running for time, no one else can help you. No one can sub in or shoulder some of the load. You have to do the work yourself.
What teammates can do is change the way you work, how inspired you are, and how much you enjoy what you do. Over and over in Leeder’s responses in today’s senior spotlight, you see how much teammates matter even when she runs alone.
The following is a Q and A with Leeder, a senior cross country and track athlete who missed her final season on the Eastern track squad after the spring season was canceled as part of the state’s effort to combat coronavirus.
Q: Obviously, the decision to cancel spring sports had to have hit hard. What are your thoughts for your team and for yourself?
A: I was obviously very much looking forward to my last track season and was beyond disappointed when it was canceled. For me personally, sports have always been more about my teammates and our performance as a team than how well I can do on my own. I was excited to have one last season with my distance squad and my running family. However, we have still found ways to connect with each other and I am certain that my teammates will absolutely thrive next year. They are all amazing and talented people who will do great things and I cannot wait to see what they accomplish.
Q: What were your goals this season and did you feel prepared to chase the goals?
A: My goals this season included setting personal records in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200. I also had hoped that our 4x800 team would win conference again this year. I was entirely prepared to chase my goals, both literally and figuratively, and I truly wish I would have gotten that opportunity.
Q: What is your favorite memory from your high school track career?
A: I would be lying if I said I had only one favorite memory from my high school track career. Even the hardest workouts ended in team bonding over how much we hated sprinting. Any memory with my team is a great one. However, the feeling of winning the distance medley relay at the Eastern Invitational my sophomore year will always stick with me. It felt so amazing to cross the finish line in first to my waiting team, who was so proud of me.
Q: What’s the best race you ever ran and what went right?
A: The best race I ever ran was the Culver Invitational cross country race during my junior year. I distinctly remember the feeling of just suddenly running on clouds; I genuinely felt like nothing could slow me down. I passed multiple people, negative split my miles and ran my personal [best]. That race felt amazing, and I truly understood the term “runner’s high” on that day.
Q: What are the experiences you’re going to miss the most from not running this spring?
A: I will definitely miss competing. The rush of finishing, seeing your teammates cheer you on, knowing you accomplished so much more than your body thought it was capable of, it is truly an incredible feeling. But the thing I will miss the most is being with my distance team. I love interacting with them, running with them, competing with them and partying with them. I wish I would have had the opportunity to run with them for one last season.
Q: You were in both cross country and track, how are the challenges of each different and did you like one more than the other?
A: Cross country and track are both amazing sports, both for different reasons. For both track and cross country, the biggest struggle I face is keeping up the mental stamina during a race. If it’s hot, cold, windy, rainy, muddy or insanely sunny, you have to keep pushing through and reminding yourself why you started and what your goal is.
Cross country is my preferred sport, simply because our team feels like a family. I love the Saturday morning meets, cross country camp, Friday morning practices and playing ultimate frisbee. There are just so many aspects of cross country that I love.
Q: What’s the fastest or most comfortable track you’ve run on?
A: I am most comfortable on our home track, and it feels pretty fast to me, but I am also a fan of Kokomo High School’s track. It has a beautiful layout and is very nicely made. To be honest, I don’t remember most of the tracks I have run on, but once you’re on a track, you know whether it’s a nice one or a not-so-nice one.
Q: How would you describe your team’s senior class?
A: The seniors on our track team this year are dedicated, devoted, phenomenal people with incredible talent and skill. We were ready to bring our A-game and give it our best. We were going to dominate this season, and it’s hard to come to terms with the fact that we lost all of that in this virus. I wish my teammates all the best, and I hope that someday soon we can all get together again.
Q: Who are some of your biggest athletic influences and how have they helped shape you?
A: My grandpa [David Blachly] and my mom [Janet Leeder] were both my biggest influencers in running. They were both runners, and they have inspired me to be the best runner I can be.
My coaches have also had an incredible influence on me. Phil Vogl, Lewis Duke, Ben Cox, Kristi Reprogle and Anne Kantz have been the greatest coaches I could possibly ask for. They have inspired me, encouraged me, and pushed me to be my best at all times.
My greatest teammate inspirations have been Ella Kantz and Molly Hapner. They are the best running buddies and I cannot wait to run with them again soon.
Q: What are your future plans?
A: I am attending Indiana University Bloomington as a biochemistry and biophysics major. I intend to go to medical school and become an ER doctor. This summer, I am getting my EMT certification to put myself through college.
Track and running, in general, have taught me not only physical but mental endurance, and I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to run with such a loving and amazing team!