It took a moment for Highland senior Leo Daschbach to realize what he had accomplished as he crossed the finish line at Oak Ridge Hill High School in El Dorado Hills, Calif.
Racing in an event called the Quarantine Clasico on May 23, Daschbach was one of nine competitors from the surrounding states invited to participate. His goal heading into the final race of his prep career was to finish the mile in under 4 minutes, a feat that had only been done by 10 male high school runners in history.
When he crossed the finish line, the timer read 3 minutes, 59.54 seconds.
“I sat down almost in disbelief,” Daschbach said. “I just wanted to kind of absorb what I had just done. I didn’t know I was going to run a sub-four until I actually did it.
“It still hasn’t set in.”
Daschbach’s time was the ninth fastest out of the 11 racers who had accomplished such a feat in history. It also became the fastest mile time in Arizona history during a lost season due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Matt Strangio, a senior from Jesuit High School in Sacramento, Calif., began organizing the event in early May. Daschbach was included in a group chat and asked if he would want to compete. He immediately accepted.
Strangio lined up the officials, timers and was able to secure the track despite schools in California being closed due to the virus.
“All I had to do was show up and race,” Daschbach said.
Daschbach and his family arrived in California on May 22. On race day, he spent a majority of his time in his hotel room doing yoga, meditating and eating healthy meals. It was at this point his nerves began to kick in, something that is normal for him on race days.
When he arrived at the track to warm up, there were no screaming fans. His friends who often watched him race at meets throughout the school year weren’t there. For the most part, it was just his immediate family and those for the rest of the competitors.
Daschbach said it created an abnormal race atmosphere. But at the same time, it allowed him to stay calm and not have any distractions. As he approached the starting line, his nerves quickly turned into confidence and determination.
“I usually always tell myself that the race is going to hurt but I’m going to push through it,” Daschbach said. “No matter what, I know that all I can do is my best. All I can hope is my best is enough to win the race or accomplish whatever goal I have.”
Daschbach said he was disappointed when he learned his senior track season had been canceled. He had hoped to run his final race with teammates and add to what had already been an impressive career at Highland.
Daschbach won five individual state titles during his time as a Hawk and helped lead the Highland boys’ cross country team to the 2019 Division I state title. Last September, he ran the second fastest 5K ever in the U.S. at the 13th-annual Nike Desert Twilight in Casa Grande. Last spring, he helped the Highland relay team set a new record in the 4x800-meter relay.
Once the 2020 season was canceled, he immediately divulged himself into grueling training sessions three times a week to run a sub-four mile. Though, at the time, he aimed to accomplish such a feat while at the University of Washington competing on the track and field team next school year. But the Quarantine Clasico gave him the chance to cap off his illustrious high school career in fashion.
“I just sort of took it and learned that you have to adapt,” Daschbach said of the canceled season. “I talked to my coach and just said that without competitions we could take the next few months to try and run sub-four. I wanted to do a couple solo time trials.
“I was fortunate enough to have them throw that meet together.”
While Daschbach’s name will forever be etched as one of the best distance runners to ever come out of Arizona, he hopes he will be remembered at Highland for more than just his individual accolades.
He said he hopes he made an impact on the Highland cross country and track and field programs, one that involves hard work and dedication.
“I think all of the seniors set the standard really high for what should be expected from the team,” Daschbach said. “It’s all about hard work and consistency. You just have to commit to the sport and the team and the family atmosphere we have there.”