Even after dominant year, Jones County’s Erin Leonard isn’t slowing down any time soon
Erin Leonard probably would be running even if there wasn’t a team to run for.
The junior at Jones County said running is something that she can’t do without. Last year, Leonard won the GHSA Class 5A cross country title and then added championships in the 1,600 and 3,200 meters at the Class 5A track and field meet, and she is off to a dominant start to this cross country season.
“It really is my escape,” said Leonard, who admitted to getting in a four-mile run Sept. 11 with Tropical Storm Irma bearing down in the area. “It gets rid of the stress and outside factors, and I really love running on dirt roads around Gray and enjoying the scenery as I run. If I don’t run at least a little every day, I feel like someone else is out training and getting better. I mean, it’s not that hard to get out and run for at least 30 minutes.”
That highly competitive side of Leonard is what makes her special, according to Jones County cross country coach Geoff Moore.
“Erin possesses all the attributes of a great distance runner,” said Moore, who ran cross country at Clemson. “She has talent, passion, a great attitude and is very coachable, with the first three being the most important. She prepares as for a race as well as any athlete I have ever been around. She comes across as this sweet little girl, but when the spikes go on and the gun goes off, it’s all business for her.”
Leonard is quick to point out where she needs to improve.
“I like to be in front, and if I see someone coming up on me and I’m being pushed, I tend to get stressed out,” said Leonard, who won the Macon Labor Day Road Race this year in her first attempt. “The key to getting over that, though, is just to start believing in my training. I feel like I am in the best shape of my life, but I know there will come a time when someone is ahead of me, and I have to deal with it. I think that confidence will come with more experience.”
Leonard was not pushed Saturday as she cruised to an easy win in the Greyhound Invitational with a time of 17:37, the fastest cross country time in the state this year. Her recruitment stage for colleges has just started for the straight-A student, and she has heard from LSU, Navy and Army.
“I feel like running in college is something I would love to do, and I am confident that I will find somewhere to run,” said Leonard, who was named the Mile Split Georgia female runner of the week Aug. 19. “I know that God has given me a special talent, and I have to take advantage of it. I have never thought about quitting, even through the hard workouts, and to be honest, I just love the sport.”