ADAMS TWP — Zach Leachman is accustomed to running against the best.
Now the Mars senior will be running with the best in college, having signed a letter of intent recently to continue his academic, cross country and track careers at Florida State University.
“Zach is as dedicated and hard-working as any athlete I've ever coached,” Mars track coach Joe Cioc said. “He's as fine a kid as I've ever been around.”
Leachman finished 19th at the PIAA Cross Country Championships last fall. He placed fourth in the 3,200 meters at the PIAA Track and Field Championships last spring, running a career-best time of 9 minutes, 12.17 seconds.
That time is second all-time in Butler County history to Butler graduate Noah Beveridge (9:07.26).
“My goal this year is to break nine minutes,” Leachman said of the 3,200.
He has also competed for Team USA as a triathlete, having raced in Mexico and Ecuador.
“Focused and driven,” Get Fit Families director Joelle Patterson, who has worked closely with Leachman in the triathlon, described the runner.
Leachman carries a 4.2 grade point average and plans to major in engineering at Florida State. His other final choices were Temple, Air Force and Furman before choosing the Seminoles.
“I sent out a number of inquiries when I was looking for a school and Florida State was interested,” Leachman said. “That situation has everything I want.
“I'll be focusing on running now, to be sure, but the coaches there are also allowing me to get some biking and swimming in. I'll stay involved in triathlon, hopefully doing a couple of them later this year.”
Bob Braman is in his 20th year of coaching cross country and track at Florida State. His teams have won 11 Atlantic Coast Conference indoor and 11 ACC outdoor titles.
The Seminoles have made 13 NCAA Championship appearances in the last 17 years and were national champs in 2006 and 2008.
“I'm excited for him,” Mars assistant track coach Scott Bowes said of Leachman's future at Florida State. “Zach is a very gifted athlete who has all of the intangibles for success.”
Bowes has worked closely with Leachman in recent years.
“He's driven and he's passionate,” the coach said. “He's joining a great program and will be around other elite athletes every day. I know he's going to respond to that.
“Zach was always willing to work with me. We put a plan together that helped his running and built his mileage. There's been a strong trust between us.
“He'll establish that type of relationship with his coaches in college, I'm sure,” Bowes added.
Leachman said he runs approximately 50 miles a week in the spring, summer and fall, 40 miles a week during the winter.
“I like to be challenged and pushed. I know I'll get that down there (at FSU),” he said. “In this sport, you have to be challenged. Run hard, recover the right way, believe in yourself all the time.
“My goal in college is help the team any way I can. If I keep getting better, I feel like I'll do that.”
Cioc believes he will.
“Zach is fully dedicated to it,” Cioc said of Leachman's running. “He's a great kid for the team, too. He always helps and encourages his teammates here and I'm sure he'll do the same in college.
“As an athlete and teammate, he'll fit in down there. That kid will do great in life.”