Junior College Track and Field: Leon completes the triple

Diego Leon, a former Anzar High standout, has posted some of the fastest times in the nation this season while competing as a sophomore at Hartnell College.

Reality was better than a dream for Diego Leon in the California Community College State Track and Field Championships last weekend.
Leon, a Hartnell College sophomore and 2013 Anzar High graduate, had a meet to remember, winning three events—the 10,000-meter run, 5,000 and 1,500—en route to earning the outstanding male track athlete of the meet.
“Three for three, that was the goal,” Leon said. “I put a lot of pressure on myself throughout the year, and I’m never satisfied until I get what I want after the season. This was the goal (after winning the state cross-country title in November).”
With the three distance events spread out over two days—the 10,000 was contested on Friday and the 5,000 and 1,500 on Saturday at the College of San Mateo—Leon pulled off the impressive triple in dominating fashion.
Leon won the 10,000 in 31 minutes, 20.63 seconds, the 5,000 in 14:40.53 and the 1,500 in 3:53.58. Leon masterfully positioned himself in all three races, then used a devastating kick to pull away from his closest competitors in all three events.
Despite looking smooth and maintaining nearly perfect form in all three races, Leon actually had some apprehension entering the 5,000 and 1,500.
“I was least confident in winning the 1,500 and kind of scared of the event,” he said. “And I was very nervous for the 1,500.”
A week before the state meet in the Northern California Championships, Leon finished second to American River’s Luis Luna in the 5,000. Leon said he learned something in NorCals, realizing he needed to run his race.
“I’d rather play to my ability and make it an aerobic race,” he said. “I wanted to go from the beginning and make it tough for whoever wanted to go with me.”
In the end, no one could stay with Leon, who has earned a scholarship to run cross county and track at Division I program Montana State University. Although Leon—the national leader in the 5,000—didn’t run a personal-best in any of the events, he showed why he’s one of the premier distance runners in the country.
“When I thought about goals for the track season, I told myself, ‘Well, why not go for three?’” Leon said. “It might have sounded crazy at first, but I’d rather try a triple and get second in all the events and try with the wisdom and courage of my heart to try to execute all the races properly.”
Leon has gained inspiration from his grandmother, Patricia Ketcham.
“One thing my grandma told me a long time ago was that if you fought with all your might and lost, you still won,” Leon said. “It stuck with me because those are wise words, and it really touched me because it was from her. That’s what I was thinking about this whole weekend.
“So if I didn’t get first I wasn’t going to beat myself up. I just focused on doing my absolute best, and if I die, I die. I was happy with my performance because I pretty much raced my best in all three events.”
In the 5,000, which started 2 ½ hours after the 1,500 on Saturday, Leon surged to the front three laps in with Cuesta’s Connor Fisher tucked in right behind him.
For the next eight laps, the two competed as if they were teammates on a hard training run. However, once the bell rang signaling one lap to go, Leon took off and Fisher couldn’t keep up, with Leon running a strong 65 seconds over the final 400 meters.
“This day is a lot for my grandma and my team, and all I’ve ever wanted was to make others proud of me,” Leon said.

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