MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. -- One of the station’s fastest runners shined at a recent Marine Corps cross country event.
Out of the station’s few sailors, Leslie Kindling flew past her fellow competitors on her way to the finish line and she raised a few eyebrows doing it.
“She finished fifth at the All-Marine Cross Country Championships Dec. 10,” said John Ruiz, station cross country team coach. “Her top-five finish is the best finish by a Navy runner in an All-Marine Cross Country Championship event.”
As a result of her performance on a big stage, Kindling has been selected to participate on the 2006 All-Navy Cross Country team, said Ruiz, a native of Abernathy, Texas. This team will be running in the Armed Forces Cross Country Championships. The race will be conducted as a part of the 2006 U.S.A. Track and Field Winter National Cross Country Championships, in New York City., from today through Monday.
“She’ll be competing against the top U.S. runners,” explained Ruiz. “This is the same race where they pick the runners for the United States World Cross Country team. This upcoming race will give her exposure and experience at the national level.”
What makes Kindling’s selection to the All-Navy team amazing is that she has practically come out of nowhere and burst onto the cross country scene.
“This is my first cross country season ever,” said Kindling, a former track and field pentathlete at Case Western Reserve University.
Once she arrived in Yuma, it took a pair of staff sergeants one year to convince Kindling that she should come out for the team.
“They told me I could help the team, so after repeated asking, I eventually gave it a shot,” said Kindling, a native of Erie, Pa. “I didn’t have any expectations for the season because it’s been a long time since I’ve really been competitive, but now I’m back.”
As Kindling’s coach, Ruiz is excited about Kindling’s future in running.
“With this being the first year she has run cross country, she has unlimited potential,” said Ruiz. “We have just skimmed the surface with her because I didn’t know what she was capable of and I didn’t want to train her too hard.”
While many people hate the idea of running miles on end, Kindling relishes the idea of lacing up her shoes and running through the desert.
“It helps that I love to run,” said Kindling. “There are some good competitors on the team that always want to run a little faster than the person next to them. It’s so beneficial and motivating to have other people to run with. I’ve improved just by having others out there.”
The entire station cross country team, under the leadership of Ruiz, is thriving in just its second year.
“Last year, the first year that the station had a cross country team, we finished fifth,” said Ruiz. “This year, as a team, we finished third overall, and we were competing against more teams.”
The team finished 1 minute, 20 seconds behind the first place team, despite missing its top runner, Ruiz, due to an injury he sustained in September.
But those kinds of finishes don’t happen just by wishful thinking.
“Leading up to the All-Marine Championships race, we were running sixty to eighty miles per week,” said Ruiz. “We’ll start training again in June by running twenty to thirty miles per week on Saturdays, Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. We frequently run a canal that goes from 32nd Street out to Cocopah Casino. We run pretty early, around 6:30 a.m., to beat the heat.”
The team always welcomes station personnel interested in running with them.
“I think people have more talent than they think,” said Kindling. “Maybe they will find a new one in running like I have.”