Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 43
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
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ON COURSE: Princeton University distance running star Brian Leung heads to a sixth place finish in the 2008 Ivy League Heptagonal Cross Country Championships at Van Cortlandt Park in New York City. This Friday, Leung, a former WW/P-S standout, will be aiming to crack the top five at the Heps as the Princeton men’s cross country squad goes after its fourth straight team title. The fifth-ranked Tiger women runners will also be on hand in New York City, entering the race as a heavy favorite to win their fourth consecutive Heps crown.

Local Distance Running Legend Leung Setting Pace for PU Men’s Cross Country

Bill Alden

Brian Leung didn’t get the chance to hit the road much this summer as he prepared for his sophomore season with the Princeton University men’s cross country team.

“I had a stress reaction in my left tibia and I didn’t run for 6½ weeks,” said Leung, a former WW/P-S standout. “I did a lot of pool work and other cross training. I worked a lot on the AlterG (anti-gravity) treadmill.”

It didn’t take long for Leung to get up to speed once he arrived at school.

“I was about 5½ weeks into cross training when preseason started; I still had a week to go before I could run,” said Leung, a multiple Mercer County Championships winner and N.J. state champion during his legendary high school career.

“I made progress quickly, I was up to 75 miles a week. I want to put in some 100 mile weeks now.”

Leung’s roadwork yielded some immediate results as he placed sixth in the prestigious Notre Dame Invitational in early October and then won the Princeton Invitational two weeks later.

This Friday, Leung heads up to Van Cortlandt Park in New York City looking to be at the front of the pack at the Ivy League Heptagonal Cross Country Championships as the Tigers go after their fourth straight Heps team title.

The fifth-ranked PU women’s cross country team will also be up in New York City seeking a four-peat of its own.

While the Tiger women figure to win the Heps title in a cakewalk, Leung knows that he and his teammates are in for a dogfight.

“I think we have a good shot; we know that Columbia is really coming after us,” said Leung. “We are looking at tactics. I like our chances but we all have to run a great race for us to win.”

Leung was confident he would have a great time if he made the short trek across Route 1 to join the Tiger program.

“I came on my official visit and I really liked the guys and Coach [Steve] Dolan,” said Leung, who also considered Columbia and Georgetown.

“I thought it was the best fit for me in terms of academic and athletic workload. It was a really good group of guys; they were very welcoming.”

Leung quickly became a valued member of the group, emerging as a top performer early in his freshman season.

“Running-wise, it was a pretty smooth transition,” said Leung, who placed 6th at last year’s Heps and qualified individually for the NCAA championship meet.

“Kurt Wayton, my coach at WW/P-S, prepared me well for college in terms of mileage and type of training. Every single race was a learning experience and a piece in the puzzle.”

Leung learned some valuable lessons on a daily basis training with Princeton senior All-American Michael Maag.

“In high school, I did a large part of my training on my own,” said Leung. “It was great to have someone to train with like Michael who not only pushed me but picked me apart and destroyed me.”

Competing at indoor and outdoor track after the cross country season forced Leung to push himself even harder.

“They are completely different seasons; cross country was my strong suit,” said Leung, who was a top ten finisher in the 3,000-meters and 5,000-meters at the Indoor Heps and in the 5,000 and 10,000 in the Outdoor Heps.

“I fizzled out a bit at the end of the spring season. I learned a lot about racing in track. I made some sophomoric mistakes like going out too fast in races; you can’t do that at this level.”

In the wake of his success as a freshman and the graduation of Maag, Leung has taken more of a leadership role as the Tigers look to hit the next level.

“We have a really strong sophomore class; we all share leadership,” said Leung. “I try to lead by example with work ethic and how I train.”

Now that he is up to full speed, Leung is confident that some strong performances, individually and team-wise, are on the horizon.

“I am feeling good about my chances of going back to nationals,” said Leung.

“I feel the team has a good chance to make it, but we do have a really tough regional. Ultimately the goal is for us to be one of the best teams in the country but that is two years down the road.”

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