Leo Daschbach is one of the most elite high school distance runners in the United States. Earlier this season, the Arizona native recently ran an incredible personal best of 14:14 at the Nike Desert Twilight Festival before securing the win at the prestigious Mt. SAC Invitational. We caught up with the 4:03 miler and asked him a couple of questions about his recent commitment to the University of Washington.
Many thanks to Leo for taking the time to answer a few of our questions!
The Stride Report: Before we talk about your college decision, we want to highlight a few aspects of your high school career. The first thing that strikes me when I look at your resume is your unbelievable range. You own PR’s of 50.27 (400), 1:51 (800), 4:03 (mile), 8:51 (3200), and 14:14 (5000). How are you able to excel in so many events at such a high level?
Leo Daschbach: I think it’s the culmination of training at every end of the spectrum and paying a lot of attention to detail. I don’t highlight one type of workout over another. My coach really trains me to be versatile so we hit a lot of areas. I buy in completely to whatever he has me do from the beginning to the end of every season, whether it’s base work, speed work, or anything else, I give it 100%. What I do outside of running also aids in my versatility. Lifting I think plays a good part in it, having solid physical strength and power combined with a great aerobic system makes a big difference especially as you start to get down to the 800/400. I also make it a goal of mine to be able to step on the line at any distance and be one of the most dangerous guys in the field.
TSR: You are one of the most elite high school distance runners in the country right now. What is it like to be in the spotlight on a consistent basis? Have you felt any pressure?
Leo: My mentality has not changed from when I wasn’t given as much consideration versus now when I’m receiving much more. I don’t pay much attention to what other people feel I should be doing. I know what I want and where I want to be, so any pressure to achieve is from me to me and being in the spotlight won’t change that. I’m grateful for the recognition, but in the end it doesn’t change much about my attitude in the sport.
TSR: What are your goals for the rest of this cross country season? What do you want to accomplish?
Leo: For me, obviously winning NXR and NXN are things I want very, very badly. But I don’t entirely consider those things actual goals just for my own mindset. I just see it differently. The real goals I have are the same goals I had set at the start of the season which is to never miss a day, any piece of the day, and to give maximum effort in each one (i.e. striving for perfection). The other was very simply to compete on a national level with everything I have.
TSR: It’s still plenty early, and the cross country season isn’t even finished, but you ran a 4:03 mile last spring. Will you be aiming for a sub-four minute mile later this year?
Leo: Yes, I will try at least once.
TSR: Let’s shift away from high school and chat about college. You recently committed to the University of Washington where you will join Andy Powell and the Huskies. What made you choose UW?
Leo: I loved the team and I loved the coaches. I felt like there was a serious opportunity for me not just to develop myself to the best I can be, but to aid in a potential championship team. I felt like I could help beyond just my speed or talent and hopefully bring something new to the team which could certainly result in big things. The academics at UW are also top-tier.
TSR: What other programs were you looking at? What did Washington have that these other schools didn’t?
Leo: UCLA, CU Boulder, and Oregon. My top priority when searching for a college was to find the best coach. Visit after visit, I began to realize that it was frankly impossible to distinguish. It made the choice very hard, but I felt a certain connection personally and philosophically with Andy that just wasn’t there with the other coaches. My gut told me before any of the visits, and after every single visit, that Washington was the best choice for me.
TSR: Since the Powell’s entered the program in 2018, Washington has become drastically more competitive on the national stage. They have also recruited some of the best young talents in the country (and have received numerous top-tier transfers). Is it safe to say that Powell's are a big reason why so many of these top talents (like yourself) are going to Seattle?
Leo: Yeah, that is a big reason, Andy is one of the best mid-distance coaches in the nation. He cares about his athletes, and he prioritizes what you want for yourself before what he wants for you.
TSR: Tell us a little bit about your conversation(s) with Andy Powell. What was discussed? Was there a certain training approach that resonated with you?
Leo: We talked a lot about training and the things I wanted to do with my running career and it seemed like we really meshed well with what was going to happen and how. His training and the relationship that I felt would develop between us felt very familiar to the relationship that I have with my high school coach, Coach Monty.
TSR: Talk to us about your interactions with the team. What made you comfortable with being around and training with that group? Was there anyone/anything in particular that stood out to you?
Leo: I could tell from just the couple days that the guys were very focused and prioritized running and their classes while also being lighthearted and fun to be around which was exactly what I was looking for. I wanted to be around guys that could just grind and be dialed in all season long while still having fun and they were exactly that.
TSR: When did you realize that Washington was where you wanted to be? Was it a relatively easy decision or did it take time to weigh your options?
Leo: It was not an easy decision and it took quite a while to weigh all my options, even though my gut kept telling me Washington. I was very deliberate and logical when deciding and made sure that the place I chose was the absolute right choice.
TSR: Give us your recruiting pitch for other top recruits to come to Washington.
Leo: School and championships and running aside, Chris and Andy genuinely care about each and every one of their athletes on a personal level that goes beyond running. The coaches wants you to be happy, to be doing well in your classes, and to be healthy because they care about you as a person, not as a runner. Andy understands that none of us are runners, we’re just people who run. I personally wasn’t looking for this type of coach and it wasn’t the biggest reason I chose Washington. I chose Washington because that’s where I knew I would become the fastest I can possibly be and continue running past college and Andy was the guy who could help me make it happen. Also, the team is destined for greatness, there’s something great that’s on its way and you’re going to want to be part of it.
TSR: What advice would you give to other athletes who are going through the college recruiting process?
Leo: Choose the place where you know you will be happy. It doesn’t matter how fast or smart you are, if you’re not happy doing what you're doing and where you are, then you shouldn’t do it (or you should go somewhere that you'd be happy doing it). Take all of your visits. You genuinely never know what you might get out of a place until you actually go there and see it.
TSR: Any final comments? Shout-outs?
Leo: Thank you to my parents who went on every visit and supported and helped me the entire time, especially my mom. Thank you to my coach, who has also supported me and trained me to be as great as I am today. I wouldn’t be where I am today without any of them. Also my brother Will who currently runs cross country and track at UC Santa Cruz. He made me run during my freshman year when I had zero interest in running.