Abbie Hunt Contributing Writer
Senior Katie Leblanc recently qualified for the New England Indoor Track and Field Championship in the 5k. At the beginning of the indoor track season, Leblanc was placed 28th nationally in that race.
Leblanc qualified for the championship at the team’s second meet of the season at the University of Southern Maine (USM). Both Leblanc and Coach Joseph Disalvo, who is no longer coaching at UMF, decided Leblanc’s goal for the season was to qualify for New Englands. The qualifying cut off time for the New England Championship is 18:50, and Leblanc ran her race in 18:46 at the USM meet.
She was close to qualifying at her first race of the season. She went into the race knowing she needed to run 45 seconds per lap (200 meters) to reach her goal. The 5k race is 25 laps around the track. Her initial goal was to qualify at USM, but both she and Disalvo were not expecting her to qualify as early in the season as she did.
At USM, the 5k was her only event. She typically runs the 3k and 5k at meets, but she didn’t want to race both in one day. Leblanc remembered the 5k was the last event of the entire meet. “I was waiting all day,” she said.
Leblanc was focused on her first lap. “When I first started I was really focused because Coach [Disalvo] told me I went out too fast in the race before,” she said. Disalvo was at the 100 meter mark on the track to make sure she was running each lap at the right pace. The race was a mental game. After the first few laps, she was on her own.
Tabitha Lingar, another distance runner on the indoor track team, was there supporting Leblanc during her race. “I was extremely nervous and very anxious for her because she didn’t know if she’d be able to push herself enough that race,” said Lingar. “There were not many other competitors to push her. All of the girls at that meet were slower than her.”
Leblanc didn’t let the lack of competition slow her down. “I didn’t let myself get in my head,” she said.
During the race, she listened to people around for motivation. Around the last seven laps of her race, her vision started going blurry due to a head cold, but she didn’t let that slow her down.
Lingar watched Leblanc’s whole race. “She booked it her last lap,” she said. Leblanc stumbled off the track and Lingar told her that she qualified.
The first thing she remembered Disalvo and Lingar saying was, “you did it.”
Assistant Coach Nickolas Shuckrow also watched Leblanc’s race. “She ran an amazing 5k,” said Shuckrow. “She ran a really tough race where she finished strong.” Although this is Shuckrow’s first season coaching the team, he found Leblanc to be dedicated. “I haven’t known Katie for very long but she is certainly deserving of the opportunity to go run at New Englands,” he said.
At the end of the race she wanted to cry, as she tends to get emotional upon achieving her goals. It was all a blur of high energy for Leblanc the rest of the day, filled with support and excitement from her teammates who were looking forward to seeing Leblanc compete in New Englands.
Leblanc does get nervous for races, but she always tries to remain positive. “Everybody who’s really good will be at that meet and some people are faster than you,” she said. “I get very nervous and I doubt myself which I don’t think is helpful.”
She recently finished the 5k again with a time of 18:35, beating her first qualifying time by nine seconds.
The New England Indoor Track and Field Championship will be held on March 28 and 29 in Middlebury, Vermont.