In the 2013 cross country season to date, Harvard co-captains James Leakos and Maksim Korolev have faced 798 runners in four races, held on four different courses in four different states. And in each of those competitions, the duo has found its place on the top of the leaderboard.
Either Leakos or Korolev have finished in first or second place in the four races in which they have participated this season.
But the co-captains’ current success is coming after a summer of hard work and the guidance of a former Harvard cross country standout. Leakos and Korolev spent the past summer in Cambridge, working with Paul Gompers, a professor at Harvard Business School whose research focuses on venture capital and start-up, high-growth companies.
According to Gompers, Leakos and Korolev got the job after they approached him for career advice last spring, looking to explore the business field in more detail.
“It was a job that was both interesting for them and flexible enough for them to get in their training, and they were great,” Gompers said. “They were both just tremendous assets to my research team over the summer.”
While Gompers was at Harvard, he set a number of school records for the Crimson cross country and track and field teams. His record in the 10k for the cross country team still stands to this day. Gompers earned fifth place at the NCAA Championships in 1986 with the current-record time of 31:02.
But despite his strong running background, he insisted that aside from “build[ing] their confidence,” he didn’t have much to do with Leakos and Korolev’s actual training.
“I had a great experience here [at Harvard], so to be a faculty member here and a role model for the students is something I find very satisfying,” Gompers said.
Though they spent the summer together, the co-captains indicated that they rarely trained together. While Korolev battled an injury, Leakos upped the intensity of his usual summer training.
“I just got my mileage to points it had never been before,” Leakos said. “I’d never been a super high mileage guy, and I turned into one this summer.”
Leakos said that by the end of the summer, he was doing around 110 miles a week, while Korolev said that he was doing around 80 per week.
“I actually probably had one of the worst summers of my life,” Korolev said. “I was really, really worried [going into this season].”
Last spring, Korolev finished the outdoor track and field season with a disappointing showing in the 10k at the NCAA Championships, where he finished last with a time of 33:55.
“I got triple-lapped and I ran slower than the winning girl in the 10k,” Korolev recalled, shaking his head.
“I couldn’t watch that race,” Leakos laughed.
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