June 10, 2014
BEAUMONT – Leigh Lattimore, Lamar’s top women’s distance performer in both cross country and outdoor track, put a remarkable cap on her first school year in Beaumont on Tuesday as she received the Babe Didrikson Zaharias Award, which honors LU’s top senior-to-be women’s athlete.
“When you look back at the previous winners of this award over the years, you can’t help but be impressed at the caliber of student-athletes that have come through Lamar,” track coach Trey Clark said. “After the year that Leigh had, she deserves to be in that group. It’s definitely an honor, and as a program, we are very proud of her.”
Lattimore, who in in the process of completing her master’s degree, had an impressive debut cross country campaign. The Pinner, England, native finished second at the Southland Championships en route to earning Newcomer of the Year, and leading the team to its first Southland team title since 2006. After being named Southland Newcomer of the Year, she earned all-region accolades from the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association for her 14th place showing at the NCAA South Central Regional.
“I was really pleased with my cross season,” Lattimore said. “I was getting tired towards the end of the season, and I’m looking forward to next year so that I can try and make it to nationals. It meant a lot to take home the team title, and the girls put in a massive effort to make it happen. It was a really good day for us.”
As the calendar turned to the indoor season, Lattimore picked up from where she left off, posting the top 3,000 meter time in the conference, and the third-best mark in the 5,000. She also collected a pair of All-Southland finishes at the conference meet, finishing third in the 5,000 and second by just fractions of a second in the 3,000.
Lattimore continued her success in the outdoor campaign, taking home her first Southland individual championship in the 5,000 meter run on the way to earning another newcomer of the year award from the conference. She also boasted of the league’s best 10,000 meter time and was the only Southland women’s athlete to participate in the race at either of the NCAA Championship prelims.
“I’d never done indoors before, so I don’t know if it was a good indication of how I could run, but I kept it together for conference,” Lattimore revealed. “I think I can definitely do better next year, and I was very pleased with my performance outdoors. There are a few things that I’d do differently, and I’m excited about getting back to it next year.”
The Zaharias award is named for Beaumont native Babe Didrikson Zaharias, who is considered one of the best female athletes of all time. It has been annually awarded to LU’s top senior-to-be women’s athlete since 1978. Perhaps fittingly, as Zaharias is a former Olympic gold medalist in track and field, LU harriers have earned the honor 12 times, more than any other program. Lattimore is the first to do so since former Southland Athlete of the Year Clerc Koenck in 2007.