Swiss Army knife: Sophomore Max Leonard has shown he can compete in almost any event on the Titans’ track-and-field team

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 21, 2024

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By Jay Spivey

For the Clemmons Courier

CLEMMONS — If you ever attend a West Forsyth track-and-field meet, chances are likely that you could see Max Leonard at any time and on any portion of the track.  

Leonard, a sophomore for the Titans, competes in many events in both track and field, and he’s willing to learn even more.  

“I’m an everything type of guy, but I really love hurdling, 300(-meter) hurdles, 110 hurdles,” Leonard said. “It’s probably what I’m best at, but it’s also something that’s fun to me.” 

According to Coach Nathan Newsome, Leonard competes in both hurdles, high jump, 4×400-meter relay, 800-meter, 4×800 relay, pole vault and other sprints. 

“I think the beauty of track is the improvement, you can physically see improvement so well just because it’s all time-based. It’s all height-based,” Leonard said. “If I’m high jumping, I can quite literally see I’m progressing because the bar is higher. I can see I’m hurdling faster because my times went down.” 

Leonard is willing to try anything, plus the coaches see that he’s a good athlete. 

“I think what me and the coaches have realized is that if you put me in most events, I’ll be able to do it,” he said. “I’ve learned how to high jump within the past couple months, of course, hurdling within the past year. I’ve learned how to pole vault within the last couple months.” 

Although Leonard is still young, the coaches see so much potential in him. 

“He’s been eager to learn and try different events, and he’s excelled in just about everything he’s tried,” Newsome said. “It’s been a real treat.” 

According to Leonard he ran 15.7 second in the 110 hurdles, 42.0 in the 300 hurdles, high-jumped 5-foot-10, and his 400-relay split was 53 seconds. He also ran a 2:13 in the 800, and a 24.5 in the 200.  

“I usually do hurdling three or four times a week. I’m sprinting about the same – three and four times a week, which the beauty of that is if I can do both of those in the same day, because they’re so similar,” Leonard said. “I’m usually pole-vaulting one to two times a week. I’m high-jumping about the same – one to two times a week, and that’s about it.” 

In NCHSAA track and field, an athlete can only compete in four events per meet, so Leonard has to be judicious with what he chooses.  

“The way that I do with any athlete is I try to determine where can you score the most points for us to help the team,” Newsome said. “And then, you have to also factor in the sequence of events. You know, some events are back-to- back, and it’s really hard.”  

Newsome said Leonard would likely be good in middle-distance races. 

“He would probably be a fantastic 400-meter runner for us, but the 300 hurdles is immediately following it. And you just can’t do those two events back-to-back with any efficiency at all. And he’s a better 300 hurdler than a 400-meter runner, Newsome said. “So, right now it looks like he’s a 110 hurdler, a high jumper, a 300 hurdler, and a 4×4. But not all meets are really predicated to trying to score as many points as you can. Some of it is letting him try some other stuff.” 

As one might surmise, Leonard loves to compete in both hurdles events. 

“You have to focus, right?” Leonard said. “That’s the one event where you have to focus the most. You have to really lock in before you run it. You have to get your rhythm down. You have to get everything right, but once you’re blowing through them you can really feel yourself moving. And that’s one of the enjoyments because you can feel your progress.” 

Being able to run in the 110 hurdles and 300 hurdles sounds similar, but the two events are quite different. 

“Practicing for hurdles events is all about strides, how many strides between the hurdles, how many steps you really need to organize how fast you’re going to go through them,” Leonard said. “If you lose that stride your race is almost over.” 

Even Newsome said that Leonard primarily works out with the other 300 hurdlers. 

“I think the 300 hurdles is probably relative to his competition in the state, is probably where he excels at the most,” Newsome said. “Once in a blue moon you get a kid that I think is probably what we’d call a multi-event kid.” 

Leonard even flashes his athleticism on the football field. He played wide receiver last fall on the JV football team for the Titans.  

“That’s the sport I’ve been playing the longest,” Leonard said. “I’ve been playing that close to nine years at this point. I’ve always been a wide receiver. I’ve always liked catching. I think that’s translated very well from track and track has translated very well to football.” 

The two sports are completely different, but Leonard sees some similarities. 

“You just have to attack both, right? You’ve got to attack the defense in football, and track, I mean I don’t think you can leave anything off of the track. You can’t leave off of the football field,” he said. “You just have to give it your all.” 

Because of football, along with other reasons, Leonard is a track-and-field runner who doesn’t compete in cross-country. 

“I believe cross-country doesn’t entirely fit with the goals I want to reach,” he said. “With what I’m doing cross-country isn’t entirely synonymous with the events I do and everything.” 

The Titans are in the early portion of the track-and-field season, but Leonard and three of his teammates had the honor of competing this past weekend in the Adidas Track Nationals at Virginia Beach. They competed in the boys 4×400 Relay National Elite Finals. The foursome finished 25 overall with a time of 3:35.66.  

“I think I just want to be successful in all the things I do,” Leonard said. “I want to be a successful football player. I want to be a successful athlete in track and I want to be a successful student.” 

With a 4.4 GPA, he’s well on his way to accomplishing his goals. With more than two school years remaining, Leonard said that he’d like to major in neuroscience in college. 

Leonard might even have an interesting choice as to what to compete in track and field if he competes in college. High school track and field in North Carolina doesn’t offer decathlon, but it might be the perfect thing for someone accomplished in as many events as Leonard. 

“He’s a big kid. He’s tall. He’s probably at least 6-2, 6-3, and he’s very fit,” Newsome said. “He’s lean, but you know that type of frame, and the reason I say that his throws are a component of that as he’s getting in college. So, I don’t think that would be problematic for him, not that stature makes one better than the other.” 

The possibility is out there once college coaches start recruiting him. Leonard said he has considered competing in both the indoor heptathlons and outdoor decathlons.