Sports / Cross Country Stars
The Long Run
Photos of Sagehen
legends line the halls of the Rains Center, staring in sepia tones onto
corridors bustling with athletes making their way to the locker rooms.
Beginning with the 1893 men’s track team, the display carefully traces
the long legacy of Sagehen athletics, continuing on with color pictures
posted at semester’s end.
Turn a corner and two images, stapled next to each other and labeled
“recent headlines,” tell the latest story of Pomona-Pitzer sports glory.
Crosby Freeman ’06 and Will Leer ’07 have already joined the pantheon of
Leer and Freeman both have broken school records—Leer in the 800 meters
and Freeman in the 10,000 meters—and are on a short list of Sagehen
All-American cross-country athletes. Their bond as teammates and friends
also make them unique among Sagehen record-holders, often spaced years
“It’s been kind of a special time and we’ve been able to go to nationals
as a team because of those guys,” said Coach Patrick Mulcahy ’66, who
has coached the Pomona-Pitzer cross-country team since 1969. “They will
go down as the best pair of distance runners in the history of the
Leer and Freeman first met during Leer’s visit as a “prospie”
(prospective student), and the two runners developed a friendship that
has since propelled their cross-country careers.
from his home in Minnetonka, Minn., Leer arrived in Claremont five years
ago looking for a college that fit him. It is customary for incoming
recruits to meet with Coach Mulcahy and the rest of the cross-country
team before making any final decisions. Leer, then a high school senior
and star athlete in his own right, liked the atmosphere of the Pomona
campus, with its dual emphasis on academics and athletics, but was not
immediately sure if he belonged among Sagehen ranks.
Then came Crosby.
Freeman was already an established Pomona-Pitzer cross-country star when
Leer arrived. In his first season, he was the No.2 freshman finisher at
the NCAA Division III Cross Country Championships and only one of three
All-American cross-country athletes in Sagehen history. The “big man on
campus” in the eyes of the prospective student, Freeman took Leer under
his wing, showing him the ins and outs of Pomona campus life.
“His outlook towards college in general and running were so in line with
what my hopes were for coming to college,” Leer recalled of his first
meeting with Freeman. “I knew that this was a great place—the kind of
place for me.”
After spending a weekend with Freeman and the cross-country team, Leer
had made his decision.
Following his visit, the two communicated frequently during the spring
semester of Leer’s senior year in high school. After Leer enrolled in
the fall of 2003, the pair quickly became training partners – through
grueling, 16-mile training runs – in a sport characterized by individual
motivation, and began to hang out outside of practices. During the
2005-2006 season, the pair moved into a Lawry Court suite, together with
two other teammates.
“I was the No. 1 guy in my freshman year, and here comes Will Leer who
is really solid,” Freeman said. “We worked together at practice, and
spending so much time together, we developed a friendship.”
Friendships off the field easily translated to strengthened team
camaraderie during practices and competition. During the 2004 Southern
California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) Cross Country
Championships, Freeman found himself in the lead, poised for the win.
Leer hung back, surveying the field and setting a slower pace for the
chase pack in an attempt to help his teammate steadily increase his
lead. With less than a half mile remaining in the race, Freeman, a
long-distance specialist, had secured the win. With Leer’s help, Freeman
went on to claim his first individual SCIAC title.
As Leer developed as a cross-country athlete, however, friendly
competition began to develop. A track athlete for the majority of his
career, Leer’s extensive cross-country training quickly allowed him to
give Freeman a run for his money.
The UC Riverside Invitational in October 2005, left Freeman, then a
senior, with his first ever loss to a fellow teammate. Running alongside
Leer in the lead pack for the majority of the race, Freeman asserted
himself and began to push the pace over the final two kilometers. In the
last half mile, however, Freeman’s lead dwindled allowing an anxious
Leer to kick past. Crossing the finish line, a disappointed Freeman
placed fourth, just two seconds behind Leer in third.
“Will is just a really motivated guy,” Freeman said. “He has this way of
transferring that intensity to the people around him, and they are
motivated by him.”
Following Freeman’s first loss to a Sagehen, the pair began to train
even harder, intent on winning any and all upcoming events. Rather than
dividing the two friends and training partners, the competition
propelled Leer and Freeman into the Pomona record books as the runners
went on to win a combined total of 6 All-American honors over the course
of the 2006 season.
“Last fall was probably the best series of workouts that I have ever
had,” Leer said. “We made each other both really strong.”
With Freeman now graduated and Leer about to, the two teammates have
maintained their friendship. During Leer’s senior year at Pomona,
Freeman often visited Claremont to spend time with Leer and keep updated
on the goings on of the team. Leer also made frequent trips to the San
Francisco where Freeman now works as an AdWords Coordinator for Google
Both have plans to continue running at the post-collegiate level. In
February, Freeman finished first in the San Francisco Half-marathon,
defeating more than 9,000 competitors from across the country. A current
member of the Aggies Running Club, a Northern California based long
distance running organization, Freeman also intends to enter November’s
Olympic Trials for the marathon -- held in New York City -- with hopes
of competing in the 2008 games in Beijing. Leer has Olympic aspirations
of his own, hoping to compete at the Olympic Trials for track and field
in Eugene, OR in June 2008.
“If either of us were to make the team we would be ecstatic for that
person,” Leer said. “If we made it together, it would be the time of our