Bloomingdale runner LeBlanc eyes Gators track team
BLOOMINGDALE - Like many distance runners, Bloomingdale High School junior Andrew LeBlanc was a soccer player growing up. He went out for the track team his freshman year with no real expectations. “My friends convinced me to do it,” he said. “I had no idea what I was doing.” As it turns out, LeBlanc is much better at track than he is at soccer. Last year, LeBlanc earned all-state honors in the 800-meter run. This year he has run the fastest time in the county in the 1,600-meter run and is a threat to win all-state honors in three events (1,600, 800, and 4x800). Steve Littleton, who has coached the distance runners at Bloomingdale for more than 15 years, saw potential in LeBlanc from the beginning.“When he first came out I said ‘I got talent to work with,’” Littleton said. Even after earning all-state honors in the 800, LeBlanc surprised everyone, including his coach and himself, when he opened the season with a victory the 1,600 at the Charles Johnson Invitational. His time of 4:25 was a personal best by 7 seconds and broke the Bloomingdale record. “I thought I could do it (and run 4:25), but I wasn’t sure. After the 4x800 that morning I didn’t feel that great,” LeBlanc said. “I was surprised he came out that strong that quickly,” Littleton said. LeBlanc’s biggest strength is his leg speed and his finishing kick. This was best on display at the Steinbrenner Invitational this year when he won the 1,600 with a big kick in the final 400 meters. “I was just thinking ‘Don’t let anyone pass me. Keep pushing,’” LeBlanc said. “He’s got good leg speed and he is very tough mentally now,” Littleton said. “There aren’t very many people on the state that can out kick him.” While LeBlanc prefers a more tactical sit and kick race, he has been working on building more aerobic strength for when the race goes out faster. At the FSU Relays a week and a half ago, LeBlanc helped Bloomingdale’s 4x800 to a runner-up finish and he finished third individually in the 800. He was hoping for another breakout performance in the 1,600, but that race was rained out. The focus will now turn to the Florida Relays the first weekend in April. LeBlanc hopes to run under 4:20 in the 1,600 before seasons end. Maybe the most frightening part for LeBlanc’s competition is that he still has room for improvement. Right now he runs only about 30 miles a week and admits he hasn’t taken cross county season as seriously as he could. “I need to build strength,” LeBlanc said. He hopes to run for the Florida Gators. With a good showing in the 4A state meet on May 4, he might just get that opportunity. “He is the most talented runner I have ever had,” Littleton said.