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Cross country: Fideles Christian's McAbee keeping pace with state's best
Leland McAbee
Leland McAbee has risen to new heights in his first season running for Fideles Christian School’s varsity cross country team. - photo by Noah Rubin

Leland McAbee has risen to new heights in his first season running for Fideles Christian School’s varsity cross country team.

McAbee, who ran club last year after moving down from Idaho, impressed last month at one of the state's premier races, placing 26th at the Wingfoot XC Classic in Cartersville. McAbee ran alongside some of the state's top runners from schools such as Mill Creek, Marist and Blessed Trinity. 

While he wasn’t thrilled with his time of 16:38, he was satisfied with where he finished.

“I was hoping to get a little bit better of a time,” McAbee said. “But since I made up three seed places, I was pretty happy with it. It seemed like everybody ran pretty consistently. My time was a little bit slower from where I wanted it to be, but everybody’s times were.”

McAbee started running competitively in eighth grade, but he has been running since he was little.

“I started running when I was five alongside my mom,” McAbee said. “She would go on walks around the neighborhood, and I was so short that to stay up with her, I would have to run. Also when I was little, my punishment if I got in trouble would be to run laps around the house. That’s probably where I got my base training.”

While it likely helped him with his cross country and track career, McAbee admitted that it might have been nice to just get sent to his room instead.

“It’s easier to sit in your room than to be out there for an hour running laps,” McAbee said. “But it paid off, I guess.”

Although McAbee runs with Fideles Christian, he is actually homeschooled. That’s not uncommon for the school. McAbee suggested that “probably 75 percent” of the runners on the team were strictly homeschooled.

McAbee loves the schedule he has as a homeschooled student.

“I ran w nd has benefitted him on a daily basis.

“It’s taught me to prioritize my life,” McAbee said. “When I was in Idaho, and I started letting other things get priority over my relationship with God, I could see my running suffering a little bit, as well as school. It’s taught me to keep my priorities straight, because it’s something you can really see when things are going well or going really bad. When races are going really good, you can pretty much know your priorities are straight, your training is good, nutrition is good. It’s one of those sports that you can really see if things are good or bad, because it’s just a time. You can’t really tell if a football player is doing really bad or really good, because if the team is doing good, it may make him look better. But with running, you either meet your times or you don’t. It’s definitely a standard to see where my priorities are.”

McAbee has an excellent support system at home that has benefitted him greatly. His parents are always there for him and are his go-to for any questions he has or just someone to talk to. He said they’re excellent role models for him.

His sister, who he says is definitely his best friend, used to run, but now she plays volleyball. Even though they’re in different sports, McAbee shared that they’ve continued to be there for each other and help each other grow.

“We help each other out,” McAbee said. “She gives me a hard time about my running. I give her a hard time about volleyball.”

While McAbee has enjoyed his running career and hopes to continue it, he’s more focused on his future in the Air Force.

“If I get recruited, then definitely,” McAbee said. “But I’m still applying whether I’m gonna run there or not. My end goal is to be a pilot. However I have to get there, Lord willing, my goal is to be a pilot. Hopefully I can get recruited to run there. That would be the dream, definitely. But I’m also applying for ROTC for a few colleges, and we’ll see how that goes.”

As McAbee continues to finish out his senior year, he’ll be trying to continue to get his times down so that he can hopefully continue his running career at the Air Force Academy, or a different school with an ROTC program. ith a public school out in Idaho,” McAbee said. “A lot of times, they were exhausted from a long day at school and then practice in the afternoon and still thinking about having homework when you get home. Being homeschooled is a little bit more relaxed. I can also focus more on training, because I can schedule my time how I want to. I can get all my work done early, or I can push it off a little bit and do a workout in the morning, do some more school and then train in the afternoon. It gives you a little more flexibility with training.”

McAbee’s father is in the Army, which has caused McAbee to be on the move for the majority of his life.

“I was originally born in California,” McAbee said. “I lived there for two years. Then I lived in Oregon for seven years. Then I lived in Fort Benning, Georgia, for about a year. Then we lived in this area, about a mile from where our house is now, for three, three 1/2 years. Then we moved to Idaho for two years, and now we’re back. So, I’ve been all over the place.”

The constant moving has allowed McAbee to easily adapt to new environments and be able to interact with people from all walks of life.

“It’s made me pretty flexible with people,” McAbee said. “You’re not really with the same friends, same school, or anything like that. Moving around a lot, I’ve gotten used to making new friends and being versatile when it comes to switching programs and switching different things. It’s been good, especially cause I want to go into the military, and a lot of times they like to see people who are flexible with people and can work well with all types of personalities.”

McAbee’s ability to run might have come from him running from such a young age, but it’s not what developed his passion for the sport. It was his desire to join the military that led to his love for running.

“It’s been my goal since I was 10 to go to the Air Force Academy,” McAbee said. “I started running competitively because I thought, ‘Well, I need a sport. If I get good enough at it, then I could get recruited and run for them.’ As it’s gone on, it’s become a little bit more of a hobby, too. Before I didn’t really like it; I was just doing it because I had to. Once I started getting better, I started taking it as my own and making it more of a hobby as well as a competitive sport. Pretty much just running to glorify God and doing the best that I can for his glory.”

McAbee’s faith has played a big role in his life and has benefitted him on a daily basis.

“It’s taught me to prioritize my life,” McAbee said. “When I was in Idaho, and I started letting other things get priority over my relationship with God, I could see my running suffering a little bit, as well as school. It’s taught me to keep my priorities straight, because it’s something you can really see when things are going well or going really bad. When races are going really good, you can pretty much know your priorities are straight, your training is good, nutrition is good. It’s one of those sports that you can really see if things are good or bad, because it’s just a time. You can’t really tell if a football player is doing really bad or really good, because if the team is doing good, it may make him look better. But with running, you either meet your times or you don’t. It’s definitely a standard to see where my priorities are.”

McAbee has an excellent support system at home that has benefitted him greatly. His parents are always there for him and are his go-to for any questions he has or just someone to talk to. He said they’re excellent role models for him.

His sister, who he says is definitely his best friend, used to run, but now she plays volleyball. Even though they’re in different sports, McAbee shared that they’ve continued to be there for each other and help each other grow.

“We help each other out,” McAbee said. “She gives me a hard time about my running. I give her a hard time about volleyball.”

While McAbee has enjoyed his running career and hopes to continue it, he’s more focused on his future in the Air Force.

“If I get recruited, then definitely,” McAbee said. “But I’m still applying whether I’m gonna run there or not. My end goal is to be a pilot. However I have to get there, Lord willing, my goal is to be a pilot. Hopefully I can get recruited to run there. That would be the dream, definitely. But I’m also applying for ROTC for a few colleges, and we’ll see how that goes.”

As McAbee continues to finish out his senior year, he’ll be trying to continue to get his times down so that he can hopefully continue his running career at the Air Force Academy, or a different school with an ROTC program.

Leland McAbee