In 2022 Leanne Pompeani captured virtually every major 10-kilometre race in Australia including the national title at the Zatopek meeting in Melbourne.
It was a breakout year for the 26-year-old former scholarship soccer player after she battled injury in 2021.
She ran out of time to qualify for the Birmingham Commonwealth Games but quickly moved on to the next challenge.
Victory in the Zatopek 10, despite a minor calf strain, has now provided her with a platform for 2023.
With the race starting at a slow pace Leanne took the lead with 16 laps of the 25-lap event to go.
“The Zatopek time wasn’t terribly quick but it was my first national title,” Leanne says. “It has put me in good stead for the world cross country trials in Canberra in January.”
A top three finish on the Stromlo course, where she trains up to two times a week, will guarantee Leanne a place in the six-member team for the World Cross Country Championships in Bathurst in February.
“After Zatopek a lot of people have high expectations on me but my preparation and focus won’t be impacted by those expectations.”
Selection on the team for her second senior world cross country titles is simply part of the bigger picture.
There’s the possibility of the World Athletics Championships in Budapest in 2023 followed by the 2024 Paris Olympics, potentially in the marathon.
It appears Leanne is making up for lost time. A late starter to the sport, she was encouraged to take it up by her teacher in year 8, Des Proctor, now her coach.
The impact of that decision was almost immediate.
“I never thought I would leave soccer,” she says. “I was playing for Canberra FC and I was running a bit. I realised I couldn’t do both and decided to focus on running.”
Six months later she was in the Australian junior team for the world cross country titles. Then in 2019 she made the team for the senior world championships in Denmark.
In the past 12 months she has won the City to Surf, Burnie 10 kilometre, Gold Coast 10 kilometre and the Zatopek 10.
In many respects it is the start of a two-year campaign in the lead-up to Paris.