Wednesday, March 07, 2007

NCAA Division III Indoor: Leer's Side Project Expands

To hear Minnetonka High School grad Will Leer explain it, his "experiment" in indoor track last year had an ulterior motive.

"I just happened to notice that the NCAAs were going to be held at St. Olaf and thought to myself, 'Free trip home!'" Leer told DtB. " So I ran a couple of indoor meets last winter and wound up having great success!"

Lear (pictured), a senior at Pomona-Pitzer Colleges in Claremont, California, not only got home on the NCAA's dime, he scored a two-and-a-half second, meet record-setting win in the event in 4:09.42. Outdoors, Leer ran both the 800 and 1500 meters at the Division III meet, finishing 8th in the 800 and 2nd in the 1500 to Nick Symmonds.

Leer returns to the NCAA Division III Indoor Championships this weekend in Terre Haute, Indiana, as the #1 seed in the mile and as a fleet threat at 5000 meters.

"It was really a painful realization that caused me to move up to the 5k," Leer, who finished 7th at last fall's Division III Cross Country Championships, said. "I recognized the fact that I was not fast enough to compete nationally in the 800m, so I decided to try the step up. My coach also had quite a bit to do with this. He thinks that the 5k will end up being my best event in outdoors, but we will have to see about that."

Leer has only raced twice indoors thie year. He qualified for the 5000 with a 14:32.84 run in Seattle in January. His mile mark of 4:07.01 came two weeks beforehand at the U of M's Northwest Open. In sunny Los Angeles, though, he's the only runner on the Pomona-Pitzer team training for indoor competition.

"During the winter I am am definitely training differently than they are," Leer explained. "Most of the guys just focus on building base mileage all winter long while I tend to do a combination of base mileage as well as a workout now and again to get myself out of my comfort zone so the shock of racing won't be so drastic."

Despite the 2006 title, the top seed, and the free junkets back to the heartland, Leer keeps an ironic distance from the indoor species of the sport.

"I basically view indoor track as a circus," he said. "I mean, you have all of these incredible athletes locked in this small "cage" pushing themselves to their extremes. As a result of that outlook I don't really put much emphasis on the difference between indoor running and outdoor running."

Leer, who was recently named the Division III All-Academic Men’s Cross Country Athlete of the Year, makes no apologies for his balmy training conditions either.

"After living in Minnesota for 18 years, I was ready for a change," he said of his SoCal environs. "There came to be a time in my life, like my senior year of high school, when I realized that I was looking for something other than 6 months of winter every year. Going to school in California takes one less variable out of the stress equation. I never have to worry about what to wear to class, it is always shorts, t-shirt, sandals, and sunglasses."

The NCAA Division III Indoor Championships get underway Friday. Entries and heat sheets can be found here, on RaceberryJam.

Photo courtesy of Pomona-Pitzer.

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