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Sophomore Leslie Kovach currently holds the school record for three different races and will look to bring this success to Des Moines, Iowa. Credit: , ,

After breaking three school records over the 2010-2011 season, it’s clear that cross-country star Leslie Kovach is ready for a bigger challenge.

The sophomore will get that challenge this Friday when she competes in the NCAA Finals in the 5,000 meters.

After coming in sixth overall in the NCAA East Preliminary Round last weekend, Kovach will advance to the NCAA championship meet this Friday night in Des Moines, Iowa. She finished the regional meet with a time of 16:16.16, four seconds faster than any other Penn runner, but still a whopping five seconds behind her career best which she set a little over a month ago at Penn Relays.

“The NCAA regional was definitely the biggest thing I’ve ever competed in,” she said. “It didn’t really sink in until after I was done how big of a deal it was that I’d made it to the regional meet [and] progressed to the national championship.”

Kovach has had a tremendous sophomore season as a Quaker.

Besides breaking the school record in the outdoor 5,000 meters race, Kovach also broke two more school records this season, the indoor 5,000 meters and the outdoor 10,000 meters, the latter of which she broke by nearly two minutes. She was also named both indoor and outdoor All-East honors.

Assistant coach Blake Boldon credits her success this year to a boost in confidence.

“I think the big change since January and February is her awareness of her ability to compete on the highest level,” he said. “Sometimes that self-belief and awareness that you’re on the brink of that is all it takes for an athlete to have a big breakthrough.”

But despite the fact that she will be facing the best runners in the nation Kovach hasn’t been approaching this meet any differently from the many she has competed in before.

“This past week and a half or so I’ve just been doing normal training rounds and a couple workouts here and there,” she said. “Other than that it’s just been like any normal training session.”

Boldon also noted that Kovach’s accomplishments haven’t been an “overnight success,” but one of years of training and practice.

“I think it boils down to her determination and her competitive desire. She wants it more than the girls around her and that’s the determining factor,” Boldon said. “She does a great job at pairing that competitive ferociousness with a tenacious work ethic.”

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