After an impressive cross country campaign this past fall, where he finished fifteenth overall at Foot Locker Nationals, New Jersey's Brian Leung looks towards even greater running challenges and accomplishments this track season. Leung, a senior at West Windsor-South Plainsboro High School, recently ran 9:02.61 for 3200m, which ranks him U.S. #1 in the event. This coming weekend Leung takes on Jersey rival Doug Smith, as the two hope to battle in the 3200m run, which could produce this season's first sub-nine minute effort.
Interview with Brian Leung (NJ)
MileSplit (MS): This past weekend you ran a new U.S. #1 time for 3200m. You ran 9:02.61. Take us through that race if you would.
Brian Leung (BL): Three days before the race, I strained my achilles while doing a tempo run in the snow. So going into the race, I was nervous. I didn't run at all the day before and just spent the entire day icing it. When I warmed up it felt great, so I knew I was ready to go. When the race itself started, I didn't feel it at all. Going into it, I knew I'd have to do all the pacing myself, so there were no surprises. By the 1600, which I passed in 4:32, I had a 100m lead and I just kept pushing. The last couple laps of the race were amazing. Even though there isn't that much room for spectators at Toms River, everyone was standing up during the last few laps and that definitely helped me a lot. Also, I had many teammates cheering me on and they all crowded around me after the race.
MS: You've had a great indoor season thus far. Have you met your goals/expectations up to this point?
BL: The first part of the season was frustrating. I knew I was in good shape, but it wasn't evident through my races. I've learned that it's very difficult to race well and train well simultaneously, so keep that in mind, everything I've done in the past two months has been pointed towards the upcoming races. I would've liked to run faster in the mile this season, but I'm happy with what I've done. I ran a 4:18 by myself at the sectional meet, so I think I could run faster with some competition.
MS: This weekend you go head-to-head with Doug Smith at the New Jersey Meet of Champions. What is your goal for the race? What's your strategy against Doug?
BL: My only goal this Sunday is to win. That being said, I don't have a goal time wise, but given the style that Doug and I race, I can't see why one, if not both of us, won't break nine minutes. Both of us like to keep the pace honest from the start, so it will be a great race.
MS: You've made your college decision, choosing Princeton. Why Princeton over other top academic/athletic programs?
BL: Being raised my entire life in the area, I know Princeton pretty well. Some people see that as a negative, but I'm looking at it as a convenience. After going on my visit, I really like the guys there and Coach Dolan's training philosophy lines up pretty well with what I've been doing. The area is beautiful and perfect for running. The only thing that I'm not looking forward to is running another four years on the Tow Path, where I've done all my long runs throughout high school.
MS: Over the past few years, you have been a very good runner. However, this fall you seemed to take a step from good to great. What do you attribute this improvement to?
BL: Before this year, I've shown glimpses of what I was capable of running but I never had the opportunity to reach my potential. Sophomore year, I didn't run winter because of a stress fracture, but I still managed to pull off a 4:22 in the 1600m in the spring. Junior year, I was ecstatic when I ran to a seventh place finish in the cross country Meet of Champions. I ran the last month and a half of that season with shingles and mononucleosis, and it was an extremely painful experience. This summer I was very careful. I ran 75-80 miles a week for 20 weeks in a row and I was in the best shape of my life. Last cross country season was my first injury free season.
MS: With such improvement in your performances, what are your goals for your final high school track season?
BL: My biggest goal would be to remain healthy and injury free. Also, I want to win the Meet of Champions in the 3200m outdoors, as well as the race this weekend. Lastly, I've never been to Nike Outdoor Nationals, but it looks fun, so I'll hopefully run in either the two mile or the 5k. I try not to think too much about running a specific time.
MS: This year's crop of top New Jersey distance runners is amazingly talented. You seem really close with guys like Brandon Jarrett. What are your thoughts on this year's New Jersey talent? Are you guys all pretty close?
BL: I talk to all the guys whenever I go to the races, so I know most of the runners inside New Jersey. I got to know Brandon really well at Foot Locker, and he's a really cool guy. I went on a run with Doug at the beginning of the season and that was the first time I really talked to him. Both of them are really laid back and it's interesting how easy it is to connect with them in ways other than running.
MS: Let's learn a little about who you are. How did you first get into running?
BL: When I was in middle school, I tried out for the basketball team in seventh and eighth grade, but go cut (I would go on to get cut my freshman year as well). My friend told me to join the cross country team as a freshman, and I decided to go for it. Long story short, my friend quit after the first practice and I stuck with it. It's worked out well.
MS: What do you like to do in your free time when you aren't studying or training?
BL: When I'm not running or studying, I'm a big basketball fan even though I'm not good. Personally, I think I've got some skills, but nobody else seems to agree. I'm a nerd, so I like to read. Also, my teammates and I have been playing Rock Band. I'm an awful singer, but for some odd reason I always end up as the vocalist. Lastly, my teammates and I love to eat. We go to the Chinese buffet and we see how many plates we can stack up in one meal. It's pretty funny since we have to make excuses so the waitresses don't clear the table (our PR is currently 56 plates with seven people).
Quick Six (Six short questions/answers)
MS: What shoes do you train in?
BL: Used to train in the Brooks Beast, but got made fun of, so I switched to Asics Kayano.
MS: What's your hidden talent?
BL: Ping Pong.
MS: Future profession?
BL: Something that pays the bills.
MS: Favorite ice cream?
BL: Mint chocolate chip cookie dough.
MS: Favorite book?
BL: Once a Runner.
MS: Person you would most like to meet?
BL: Yao Ming.
Thanks Brian. Best of luck this season!