HANOVER, Ind.--For the second time in seven months, Connecticut College senior Michael LeDuc of Canton, Conn. has won an NCAA Championship. LeDuc posted a time of 24:29 on the 8k course at Hanover College to win the Division III Men's Cross Country Championship.
It's the fourth individual NCAA Championship for the Camel Athletic Program. LeDuc's finish was the second fastest time in course history. Peter Kosgei, the 2008 NCAA Champion from Hamilton College, holds the record with a time of 22:22. LeDuc ran almost a full minute faster than his winning time of 25:22 at the pre-national race held back on October 5.
Connecticut College Head Men's Cross Country Coach Jim Butler was proud of his runner's achievement Saturday in what wrapped up a dominant two months of competition that saw LeDuc notch five consecutive wins.
"Mike was very determined to win the race and made me feel very confident that he could do so," Butler exclaimed with glee. "When he won pre-nationals, he told me he wanted to go undefeated in the last four races. He ran the table, winning our home invitational, the NESCAC Championship, the Division III Regional and capping it off by winning the NCAA Championship today. That's quite a special season."
LeDuc's plan was to be near the front early and he was able to stick with the pack in the early going. As the runners approached the outer loop just before the three mile mark, he closed the gap on John Crain of North Central College. Crain and LeDuc were running neck and neck at each recorded split from 2k through the seventh kilometer.
But in the home stretch, with about 350 meters to go, LeDuc put his head down and was able to put four seconds on Crain. It was a lead he would not relinquish. Crain finished the race in 24:33 as the runner up.
"I just tried to follow the game plan that Coach Butler and I put together," LeDuc said. "We were just trying to remain comfortable and calm in first three miles. I was a little worried when two runners were running five seconds in front of me. I moved forward at the 5k mark and ran with Crain for last third of the race or so. I just had to be as tough as I could and break Crain before the finish line and I did. I was surprised at how fast the pace was early in the race. But I guess it's to be expected at a National Championship. It was really great to have the support of the entire region. I felt well supported by the region and it was a great feeling. My thought process was that I had to win the race or show myself that I was physically incapable of doing so."
On the heels of the NESCAC announcing its All-Sportsmanship, there was a special moment of unified support by all NESCAC participants who joined the Connecticut College student-athletes in cheering LeDuc on down the home stretch to the triumph.
LeDuc was honored as the United States Track & Field Cross Country Coaches Association of America (USTFCCCA) Division III Regional Athlete of the Year earlier this week.
He posted a time of 24:21 to win the NCAA Division III Regional Championship hosted by the University of Southern Maine at the Narragansett School on November 16.
With 150 meters remaining in the race, LeDuc was able to pass Colin Cotton of Williams College to pull out the victory. LeDuc is the first man or woman at Connecticut College to win a Division III Regional Cross Country Championship.
In recognition of his performance, LeDuc was honored New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Men's Cross Country Performer of the Week Monday.
The victory comes on the heels of his victory at the NESCAC Championship back on November 2. With that triumph in Waterford, LeDuc was honored as the NESCAC Performer of the Year.
LeDuc enjoyed a memorable 2012-2013 for the Camel Athletic Program.
He captured the College's third NCAA Championship in La Crosse, Wis. in May, topping his own school record with a time of 8:50.58 in the 3000 meter steeplechase.
LeDuc also ran the 5000 meters at the 2013 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championship, finishing 18th in that run with a time of 14:56.11.
LeDuc continued to pile up the honors and awards over the summer. In June, LeDuc was named to the Capital One Academic Men's Cross Country/Track & Field First Team in Division III as selected by The College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA).
He was also honored as one of the Scholar Athletes of the Year in Division III for the 2013 men's track & field season by the USTFCCCA.
LeDuc successfully defended his New England Division III crown in the 5000 meters at Colby College May 4, shattering a facility record that had stood for more than two decades with a time of 14:30.03.
Back in March, LeDuc earned All-America honors for the fourth time in his career at the 2013 NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championship, posting a time of 14:31.80 en route to his third place finish at North Central College.
In November of 2012, LeDuc turned in an All-American performance with a 13th place finish in 24:48 at the NCAA Division III Cross Country Championship hosted by the Rose-Holman Institute of Technology.
It established a program record for the highest finish for a Connecticut College men's cross country runner at a national championship.
LeDuc garnered All-America accolades in the 3000 meter steeplechase at the 2012 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championship in Claremont, Calif. He posted a school record setting time of 8:59.54 en route to a fourth place finish, moving up two spots from his All-America finish in 2011.
In the classroom, the botany major has been recognized on the NESCAC All-Academic Team during the past six seasons.