Cross Country Q&A - Abbey Leonardi


Abbey Leonardi (Kennebunk, HS) enters her senior XC season aiming for her 4th Class A state title, & 3rd trip to the Footlocker National Championship meet. Leonardi has established herself as the top distance runner in state history in her first 3 seasons, she looks to continue her success in 2011. See how Abbey has changed her training this season,her goals for the season, and what her workout is in this cross-country Q&A


How did you get started in the sport?


I really got started running when I moved to Maine from Massachusetts. I was entering 6th grade and 6th graders were not allowed to play soccer at my middle school. My options for a fall sport were tennis and cross country. Since my primary sport at the time was my club soccer team’s spring season I decided to try cross country to stay in shape.

You were the Track and Field Athlete of the Year for your junior season. You won the 1600 and 3200 and set a New England meet record in that event Which do you like better cross country or track?


I probably like cross country a bit more than track, but not by a lot. I think my track season last year taught me that I am probably better suited to run longer distances in college. Because of that my training has changed a bit versus a year or two ago. 

What did your summer training consist of?


I took almost a month off from running after spring track. Almost my entire summer running is base building. I didn’t begin any type of workouts until mid August. I’ve always been a relatively low mileage person, but this year I plan on upping my mileage a little so that I can transition to college mileage a bit more smoothly. I didn’t go to any camps (actually I have never gone to a running camp), but my own workouts have really just started. I try to concentrate workouts at the beginning of the year geared toward strength building like hills and  power track workouts, and then transition more to speed as the season goes on.

The Gatorade Cross Country Runner of the Year award started in 2007. Anna Makaretz won it that year, but you have won it every year since. What is it like to be chosen as the best runner in all of Maine and to be chosen the past three years?


It really is an honor to be picked especially because the award is only partially based on the cross country performances. It also looks at academics, sportsmanship and volunteer work.


You are a three time Class A state champion in cross country as well. How would you assess your high school career so far and do any state titles stick out more than the others?

I am very pleased with my high school career so far, but I definitely want to finish it with a strong senior year. Not really, but I guess if I had to pick one it would be the cross country title my sophomore year. I had a bit of an issue at the

regional race with my stamina and finished second. Within a few days I figured out that I had super low ferritin level, but I was able to get that corrected and come back the following week and win at the state meet.



What do you attribute your success to?


I feel like I’m pretty committed to not only the training that it takes, but I take time to rest both in season and in the off season. I think that has helped me stay healthy and able to train consistently. Plus, I really don’t like losing.


Last year you finished  runner-up to Aisling Cuffe at Foot Locker Northeast. You've raced at Sunken Meadow before what do you like about that course?


I’m like a bunch of other cross country runners, I love the hills. Not because I love running them. who does really? I think the more challenging a course is, the more you are rewarded for putting in the extra training to get ready for the strain on your body when you race on that type of course. I don’t really care at all about winning the regional; I just want to get back to San Diego. I know it will be tough to qualify for the finals and I will have to be in great shape to get back to the finals. Staying healthy throughout the year is key.

As a sophomore and junior you advanced to Foot Locker Nationals and finished 22nd and 16th respectively. What have you taken from the whole Foot Locker experience?

Anyone that’s been fortunate enough to qualify knows how incredible the experience is. You really feel special with the way Foot Locker runs the whole event. As far as the course goes, I think it’s deceiving in how difficult it is. When you look at the course compared to something like Sunken Meadow, I think most people would think of Sunken Meadow as much more difficult. While I do think that is mostly true, the Balboa Park course is very challenging and there are some subtle long uphill sections that are easy to underestimate.


What is a typical workout like for you?


I’ll usually do two workouts per week and try to rotate hill work, tempo runs, and track workouts. During cross country I’d say my favorite workout is what I call a hilly tempo at a local park. The trail I run for that is about an 800m loop that has several very steep hills (both up and down). Because it’s an 800m loop it makes it easy to check my splits for consistency. I like that workout because it simulates real cross country race conditions.

I know that aspect of training is very important, but you are also big on health and nutrition. What type of food do you eat before and after workouts and races?

Believe it or not, I still have not figured out what works best for me to eat before a race. The last thing I tried was a banana with almond butter. As far as after a race/workout I have a protein shake immediately after and a meal about an hour or two after the shake that has protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fat.



Emily Durgin of Cheverus has been right behind you at the state meet throughout your career. What makes her such a great runner and how does that motivate you to stay on top of your game?

Emily's a great competitor and I think it helps everyone when there is good competition. It helps me state mentally tough which is a big part of cross country.


What are your hobbies outside of running? 

I helped raise money for an organization that provides financial support to Darfur. It makes you feel very lucky to live the way we do here, and so I’m happy to try to do something to help people that are not so fortunate. As far as other interests I absolutely love cooking, especially healthy recipes that require lots of ingredients and preparation. I’m not much of a Facebook user, so when I’m not training or cooking I like hanging out with my family.

Who do you look up to in the sport?


Kara Goucher is my favorite. She’s a tremendous athlete, but I also just love her personality and how cool she seems to be with everything she has going on in her life.

What meets are you looking forward to?


Other than Footlocker, I would have to say the Festival of Champions at Belfast.


College is right around the corner. Have you started looking at schools?


I’ve probably narrowed my choice of schools to about five at this point. I have several visits scheduled for September and October so my season and training are going to be a little strained, but I'll figure it out. I’m planning on studying psychology.





Personal Bests

  • 1600 Meter Run 4:51.57

  • 3200 Meter Run 10:19.09

  • 5000 Meter Run 17:49.01


More Coverage

Abbey's Athlete Profile

Kennebunk HS Team Page