Longhorns Olympic Trials Q&A: Leo Manzano
June 8, 2012
AUSTIN, Texas -- Leo Manzano was a five-time NCAA champion during his career at Texas
As a freshman in 2005, he won the NCAA Outdoor title in the 1,500 meters and won the mile at both the 2007 and 2008 NCAA Indoor meets. He concluded his senior season with NCAA Outdoor titles in the 1,500 and distance medley relay. Less than a month later, Manzano was the runner-up at the Olympic Trials to qualify for the Summer Olympics in Beijing.
Manzano was named the 2008 USTFCCCA Athlete of the Year, and he also finished second at the USA Outdoor Championships in 2009 and 2010.
A 11-time All-American while at UT, Manzano is the first-ever Longhorn to make the U.S. Olympic squad in the 1,500. Manzano recently took time to talk to TexasSports.com as he prepares for the 2012 Olympic Trials.
A lot has happened for you since you left UT. Do you feel like you're living a dream? At the end of the day, this is my job. And what a great job. I don't know what I would be doing if I wasn't doing this. I'm my own boss. Anything and everything, I have to take care of it. It used to be that the school would schedule your massage appointments and things like that, but I have to do all that stuff now. Sometimes, you're almost your own coach as well.
What did you learn in your first Olympics in 2008? So, you definitely have to have a presence. Coming out of college, I really thought I had a good chance. But stepping in with those guys, you realize it's really on another level. What's pretty insane about most of these guys is that they don't really go through the collegiate experience. Most of them just go straight into professional running. So, they're (competitive) nails are just sharper. Being thrown into that was great for me. What a learning experience - I was 23, so definitely one of the youngest running at the time.
Your family immigrated to America when you were small. How have your roots shaped you as a runner and a human? We came from such a small village in Mexico. Maybe a few years after we left they got running water and electricity and all that. So, I'm really living the American dream now.
I really feel like my roots keep me grounded. My parents taught me the work ethic that I needed along the way, and I also think that's why I've been able to succeed in many areas of my life. I had to learn English, became a U.S. Citizen in 2004. My parents didn't have the means to pay for anything. Nice shoes, nice clothes - even running shoes for that matter - we really couldn't buy. But along the way they taught me that work ethic, and I've been able to find my own way.
I was working at age 12. The only way they knew how to raise me was to tell me to go out and get a job. They wouldn't let me sit around and play video games. I'd see my friends going to places on the weekends, while I was mowing lawns. I did a lot of work with my uncle, and we'd do a lot of landscaping during the summers.
When did running become such a significant part of your life? Ever since I can remember, I liked being away from home, just doing my own thing. My parents tell me they remember me sneaking away, going out into the fields with my cousins, and we'd herd sheep or cattle.
I liked racing my grandfather. He'd always beat me of course, but then he broke his leg. I was probably 3 or 4 at the time, so I wanted to race him them. I beat him. That was my first win. Ever since then, year after year, I'd just be racing whoever I could.
They had this little awards system in primary school. Whoever could go around the track the most laps, got a blue shirt. And I'd always get the shirt.
I think through the love of my running I became a good runner. My body evolved to run because of my joy and love for running.
I really didn't start training until the summer of my sixth grade year. Ever since I can remember though, I've been pretty decent, but I was always finishing second or third. I came out for summer track, and I was running the 800 and mile. My seventh grade year, I went out for cross country. I didn't have running shoes, so I was running in hiking boots. I was doing well, beating most of the kids. After that, one of my coaches pitched in and got me some shoes.
What did you take away from The University of Texas? Well, the biggest thing I got from The University was my degree. That's one thing that nobody can take away from me. I'm the first person in my family to graduate from college. The University gave me the opportunity to reach the next level, and turn pro and run for Nike.
How are you a better runner now, four years later, as you try for your second Olympic team? I've had four years to develop. I've really honed in on a lot of things I needed to, particularly my weight training and my diet. Now I really watch my weight. Things also become more important. Of course nutrition is important, but also rest and seeing your therapist for massages. Especially when you've been running for 14 or 15 years.