* Caden Leonard owns one of the fastest 9th-grade 1,600m times currently outdoors.
Photo Credit: MileSplit Texas
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It's been quite the year for progression in the distance events on the national scale, including among the underclassmen ranks.
Some of the country's top-ranked freshmen have posted not just notable PRs, but also placed highly among older high school competitors at high-caliber events.
But Texas, in particular, has seen some of the top freshmen racers in the 1,600m so far this season in both the boys and girls ranks.
Two athletes on the boys side and one 9th-grade female competitor rank among the top 3 freshmen nationally at the 1,600m distance.
Continue below to learn more about the Texas 9th graders already making waves nationally in the distance events in 2023.
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Noah Strohman, Holliday
Begin with Strohman's performance at New Balance Nationals Indoor in mid-March as the starting point for the 9th-grader's almost immediate upward trajectory in the distance events -- particularly at 1,600m.
In Boston, Strohman took to the track and ran his way to a freshman division title in the mile with a new personal best of 4:20.26, beating out the rest of the field by over four seconds.
That time would translate to improvement in the 1,600m in the weeks immediately following his nationals breakout.
A week later back in his home state, he took third overall in a star-studded field at the premiere Texas Distance Festival and clocked a PR of 4:12.55 for 1,600m. That ranks Strohman first in the nation among all 9th graders at the distance so far this outdoor season.
Just this past weekend, Strohman continued his success on state's biggest stages with a 4:15.31 1,600m effort for 11th place at the Texas Relays.
Holliday's new young star has also clocked 1:55.44 for 800m and 9:17.59 at 3,200m outdoors in 2023.
As just a freshman, Strohman has already proved successful on big stages among some of the state's veteran distance runners. That experience could be key for him, too, as state championship season nears in the state of Texas.
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Elizabeth Leachman, Boerne Champion
Leachman has emerged as a top-three freshman in the outdoor 1,600m in 2023.
In four races in the event so far this season, Boerne Champion's underclassman star has dipped under five minutes twice, including most recently at the Texas Relays where she logged a career best of 4:52.46.
That earned her a fourth-place finish in a stacked field of Texas' best distance runners and ranks third in the country for the event currently among freshmen.
Leachman also made an impression on the indoor oval as well, competing in her only competition of the season at Nike Indoor Nationals and clocked a stellar 10:31.65 for ninth place in the 2-mile.
And where do those marks put Leachman on the Texas freshman all-time list? They certainly put her among elite company as she sits at No. 6 all-time in the outdoor 1,600m behind the likes of legends like 5,000m national record-holder Natalie Cook, London Culbreath and current junior phenom Isabel Conde De Frankenberg, and her indoor 2-mile performance ranks second only to Cook.
Some history-making performances on the track in Leachman's first few competitions have certainly solidified her spot among the top ranks in Texas -- and nationally, too.
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Caden Leonard, Southlake Carroll
Leonard has already proven to be one of Texas' top distance athletes across all events in 2023.
9:12.92 for 3,200m at the Coppell Relays. 14:33.51 for fourth overall in the 5,000m at the Texas Distance Festival. The freshman's resume already speaks for itself.
And in the 1,600m, he's shown significant consistency.
In two races contested at the distance so far outdoors, Leonard has clocked 4:15.77 at the Carroll Invitational and won the Jesuit-Sheaner Relays in a PR of 4:15.02. The winning effort puts him second on the US 9th-grade 1,600m leaderboard during the current outdoor season.
But perhaps it's no big surprise that Leonard has made a name for himself. During the fall cross country season, he placed sixth overall at the UIL Class 6A State Championships and played a crucial role on Southlake Carroll's Nike Nationals team in December.