Milton’s Leeser eyeing more at districts, states

SUNBURY — Milton’s Tyler Leeser was quick to point out Saturday he’s not done yet. The senior is by no means satisfied with everything he’s accomplished during this season and during his career.

Now, he has just two weeks left to reach those goals of his before he begins a collegiate career at Virginia Tech. And he wanted to make sure after winning a pair of individual events Saturday at the PHAC Track and Field Championships everyone understood he still has more in him.

“I’m not quite finished yet,” Leeser said after winning the 1,600. “I’ve got two more meets to try and accomplish some things.”

The biggest thing Leeser still wants to accomplish is winning state gold. It’s about the only thing which has eluded the senior in his time at Milton. He already has three individual state medals in his trophy case, including a runner-up silver medal in last year’s 800-meter run, where he lost by just .32 seconds to Freeport’s Robert Reichenbaugh, who has since graduated.

Leeser enters this week’s District 4 Track and Field Championships with the best time in the state in Class AA in the 800. The 1:54.28 he posted at the Lock Haven High School Classic two weeks ago not only broke former South Williamsport star Griffin Molino’s meet record, but it established a new Class AA best time.

What’s best for Leeser is he feels like he has even more improvement he can make in the race. The 1:54.28 is the best mark of his career, but he knows he probably needs to go even lower if he wants to capture the elusive state championship.

That mark is just .12 ahead of Joe Cullen of Wyomissing in the state rankings. Saturday, Leeser didn’t run the 800, instead putting his focus into the 400 for speed work and the 1,600 for endurance work, as well as Milton’s relays.

He’s as versatile a runner as the area has seen in quite sometime. Last year, he won the District 4 championship in the 400, 800, 1,600, and 3,200. He was able to do that because the district’s new two-day meet format had the 3,200 final run on the first day and the other three run two days later.

Leeser ended up scoring 40 of Milton’s 88 team points, helping the Black Panthers top Southern Columbia by 12 points for the Class AA team championship. Leeser won’t have the ability to chase four individual golds this year because in another adjustment to the meet format, all the track finals will be run on the second day of the meet Saturday.

“We don’t have a definite plan (for districts) yet, but I won’t be trying to do what I did last year,” Leeser said. “We’ve got some relays that are pretty good this year, too. So I might be doing some of those. But we don’t have a definite plan yet.”

Leeser has spent the season running far fewer races than he has in the past. It stems from some shin pain he began to feel in the fall during cross country season. He said the pain lingered on and off during the indoor season in the winter and continued through the spring.

So rather than put more pounding on his legs, he decided to maximize the value in the races he ran, often running only once or twice during big invitationals to lighten his load.

“We figured there’s no reason to overdo anything,” Leeser said. “So we figured we’d run fewer races of higher quality than just trying to go out and run in everything. I definitely think it’s worked out for us to lighten the load a little bit.”

That shin pain hasn’t allowed Leeser to put in the kind of miles and practice time he would normally like to. He went into Saturday’s 1,600-meter run not really sure how good of shape he would be in for the race. It was just the fourth time he has run it this year, and the other three came in dual meets.

And on a day where he struggled to get loose, a slower opening pace allowed him to get in the flow of the race and see where he stood before making his move. That move came after the first half-mile when he overtook state qualifier Ethan Knoebel and pulled away from the field.

Leeser ended up winning the race comfortably, posting a 4:22.79, his best time of the season by 17 seconds. It also happens to be the fourth-best 1,600 time in the state this year in Class AA, eight seconds behind defending state champion Tristan Forsythe of Winchester Thurston.

His time in those two events have left Leeser pretty happy with where he is heading into the district meet considering how much less training time he has had this year as compared to the past. But he’d still definitely like to get into the 1:53 range in the 800, something he think he’s can do over the final two weeks.

“I feel like I’m better than I expected to be based on what little bit of training I’ve had over the last several months,” Leeser said. “I’m definitely pleased with where I’m at, and I want to see what I can pull out against tougher competition.”