By Nate Macay, Nov. 15, 2022

For the first time in his career at Cal Poly Pomona, men’s cross country runner Leandro Candray was named the California Collegiate Athletic Association Men’s Cross Country Runner of the Week.

Candray was recognized for his stellar performance from Oct. 3 through Oct. 9, finishing second on Oct. 8 at the 13th Annual Pomona-Pitzer Invitational in Claremont. He finished second place for the second time this year and the sophomore has been challenging himself.

“I didn’t really expect anything from it,” said Candray. “It’s more so trying to do my best for the team, but I think it was really cool to be chosen.”

Courtesy of Leandro Candray

Growing up in Temecula, Candray started participating in cross country in middle school, and at the time Candray really enjoyed playing soccer for his local team. It wasn’t until his eighth grade year when he started to be more committed to cross country.

“I’m more of a team person,” said Candray. “I did try out for the high school soccer team, and just comparing the two environments between cross country and soccer, soccer was a little more on the selfish side. So, it looked like I would enjoy cross country more for the remainder of my high school career.”

Candray was part of the 2019 California Interscholastic Federation Division One state championship team at Great Oak High School. Unaware that he would run in the top seven until the morning of the state championship race, the moment capped off one of his favorite years.

“I was really excited,” said Candray. “I know how I performed was good. I finished last, but I just wanted to finish as close as possible to my teammates.”

CPP’s cross country head coach Chris Bradford attended that same state championship, leading to one of the first conversations Candray had with the coach. While Candray couldn’t say much about the conversation, he mentioned that he appreciated coach Bradford for making the drive.

“I can’t get into specifics,” said Candray. “After the race I was in a rush to get with my team, and I saw him and just had a short talk with him and was only able to keep a short conversation with him.”

During his junior year at Great Oak, Candray’s father passed away, and he mentioned his father’s pride for his sister’s and his accomplishments. Candray said that the advice his father had given him growing up is what keeps him motivated.

“He was very proud of my sister and I,” Candray said of his father. “I know he would still want me to do my best in running and school. I remembered when it came to finding a college, he would tell me to not worry if it wasn’t a D-1 school, because he would always put an emphasis on academics instead of sports.”

At CPP, Candray did not know how he wanted to approach being a front runner during his freshman year. He took the time in the off-season to look more at the team goals and what they wanted to accomplish, adding that he gained confidence to lead the team coming into this year.

When it comes to training and preparation, Candray said that it has been different compared to high school but also very beneficial for his body, especially stretching.

“It helps a lot,” said Candray. “We introduced team stretching this year and for me it helps because in high school I did not stretch a lot. I still can’t even reach my toes.”

After finishing sixth at the CCAA men’s cross country championship on Nov. 5, Candray led CPP to a second-place finish at the tournament and won All-CCAA. Compared to his previous races this year, Candray was impressed with his performance, but knows he can improve.

“Strategically, I would say that I ran the race better,” said Candray. “I don’t think I have to make any big changes, but I still have room for improvement on hanging in there with the top of the pack.”

With the cross country season nearing the end of the year, Candray is happy for himself and for what he and his teammates have accomplished so far.

The Broncos will travel to Billings, Montana for the 2022 National Collegiate Athletic Association Division II West Region Championship on Nov. 19.

You can follow Candray and the Broncos at their next race on  BroncoAthletics.com and the CCAA network.

Feature image courtesy of Leandro Candray

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