By Wade Linville –
Standout distance runner Sophia Leto has served as an outstanding representative of the Western Brown High School cross country and track and field teams over the past couple of years, and as she prepares for her junior season of high school cross country she decided to take a giant step forward in her running career.
During the last week of June, Leto packed up her bags and headed to Australia where she would represent Team USA in the Down Under Sports Gold Coast 5.7K Challenge and the All-American 5K Meet.
As expected by her coaches and family, Leto would excel in both races. Posting a time of 21:33 and placing eighth of the female runners in the All-American 5K, Leto earned a spot among the All-American Girls. She would compete for the winning Wombats team in the All-American 5K.
In the 5.7K Gold Coast Challenge, Leto posted an official finish time of 24:56 to place 33rd of 1,862 (98.23%) of all female runners. She would place 15th of 154 female runners ages 15-17 (90.26%).
After her time in Australia, Leto and some members of the USA Team ventured to Hawaii where they would enjoy some vacation time.
For Leto, the chance to compete in Australia was even more than she dreamed it would be.
“It was everything I hoped it would be. It was actually more,” said Leto.
Among the things she loved most was getting the opportunity to make some new friends who share the love of distance running.
“I made friends that have changed my life,” she said. “I won’t ever forget them.”
The chance to compete in such a large race against runners from around the USA and other parts of the world was not only a fun-filled experience for Leto, but also an opportunity to improve on her skills as a distance runner.
“It opened my eyes to see more than just runners from my state. I got to be on a team and compete with runners from across the nation,” Leto explained. “Competing with people from other countries really showed me that running is this amazing thing that brings everyone together, not just on teams, but worldwide. Nothing is more motivating than that!”
During the races, Leto competed as she always does, giving her all and coming away satisfied. But her work will continue after returning home to Ohio as she prepares for her junior season of cross country at Western Brown High School, recognizing there is always room for improvement.
“I was happy with my performances (in Australia), but I know that I have room for improvement and a lot more hard work to do,” said Leto.
During her off-time, Leto would enjoy the beauties of Australia and time on the beaches. She would even pay a visit to a kangaroo sanctuary.
Leto expressed her appreciation of those who made her trip to Australia possible and those who have supported her in her running career. To help raise funds for her trip, the Western Brown junior worked in landscaping and sold candles.
“So many people helped make this possible – my parents, grandparents and other family. Of course, my coaches and people who bought candles from me, let me help with landscaping, or just donated,” said Leto. “The support was endless! I’m so grateful for all the people who contributed.”
After such an enjoyable experience at this year’s Down Under Sports Gold Coast Marathon and All-American 5K, Leto can’t wait to return to Australia next year to represent Team USA.
“If I could do it all again next week, I would,” she said.