As the Ithaca College football team returned to competition in a game against Bridgewater State University on September 4 at Butterfield Stadium, running back Jalen Leonard-Osbourne walked the pitch hoping to play the first big game of his college football career after a successful freshman. season in another varsity sport.
In addition to playing for the football team, Leonard-Osbourne is also a sprinter on the track and field team. He set the school record for the 60-meter sprint with 6.92 seconds at the Nazareth Invitational and also racked up accolades like Liberty League Honor Roll and Liberty League Track Performer of the Week. He was also appointed to All-Rregional teams by the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaching Association. Ahead of his first season with the football team, Leonard-Osbourne wanted to make a similar impact this fall.
In his early days for the football team, Leonard-Osbourne found a clear path to rush, up the field and use his blazing speed to score a 62-yard touchdown.
The South Hill team won the competition by a final score of 52-20. For some, the day was made all the sweeter by the dominant victory, but Leonard-Osbourne said the greatest joy for him was having the opportunity to play meaningful football again.
“It was good to come back on the pitch,” said Leonard-Osbourne.
In two games, Leonard-Osbourne totaled 136 rushing yards in just 10 attempts. The football team’s head coach Dan Swanstrom said that although Leonard-Osbourne has just started his college football career, he believes he has the skills to be a key contributor to the team’s offense. Bombers.
“He’s got a great skill set, and obviously he’s a guy we worked on in the rotation at the start of this year,” Swanstrom said. “But I think the cool thing is that he has a lot to learn and he can be a lot better.”
After Leonard-Osbourne lost the spring track season of his A final year of high school due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he said he looks forward to returning to competition with the Bombers’ football program. However, the cancellation of fall sports delayed its debut.
“I was so disappointed because I had trained and worked so hard to [the 2020 football season]”said Leonard-Osbourne.” That’s why I raced on the track, to stay in shape and be able to compete. I love competition.
Leonard-Osbourne said he was going to run in college, and he found instant success in both sports. After breaking a program record in the 60-meter in his first collegiate event last year, he said it didn’t surprise him.
“I kind of expected that,” Leonard-Osbourne said. “I’m a hard worker, and the times I ran in high school were faster than [Ithaca’s school record] so I knew I was going to break it.
Leonard-Osbourne said he had someone to push him to train his entire life. His older brother, Glenmour, is a sprinter for the University of Louisville men’s track team. He said they have been precious to each other as athletes, help each other for the competition.
“[Glenmour] push me and I push it, ”Leonard-Osbourne said. “We always train and compete together. It’s exciting. “
Before bringing his talents to South Hill, Leonard-Osbourne shone in football and track and field at Ardsley High School in Westchester County, about 20 miles north of Manhattan. He led the football program to his first two New York State Public High School Athletic Association Section 1 titles in 2018 and 2019 as a running back and cornerback. On the track, he was named to the Westchester / Putnam First Team All-Star in the 100 and 200-meter and won a silver medal at the 2019 New York State Championships.
The many accolades in both sports have garnered a lot of interest from colleges, but Leonard-Osbourne said he ultimately put his heart on a schedule.
“I had the Division I options for track and field and football,” said Leonard-Osbourne. “But I just fell in love with Ithaca, the campus and the coaches.”
Leonard-Osbourne’s competitive drive led him to early success when college athletics resumed in February 2021. After setting the 60-meter school record in his first meeting, the short sprint specialist recorded four consecutive victories in the 100 meters. April 12 through May 1, including a season best mark of 10.78 seconds at the RIT Friday Meet on April 23. Osbourne also contributed to four 4 × 100-meter relay victories during this span.
Sadly, the aspiring superstar’s season came to a halt as he contracted an illness and was forced to return home for the remainder of the semester. Roosevelt Lee, Ithaca College mFr track-sprint coach said illness had put the brakes on what could have been a historic season for Leonard-Osbourne.
“[Leonard-Osbourne] certainly could have been a national champion last year for the away [track]”Lee said.” I hope to coordinate things better this year to get him there. “
With Leonardo-Osbourne in the midst of his breakout season with the football team, Lee has said he hopes the running back’s time on the grill will help his performance on the track.
“The correlation between the track and football is the ability to move around at all times,” Lee said. “The strength aspect translates into the track because you have to be explosive and have power.”
Senior Luke Tobia, who throws for the track team and is a former linebacker for the football team, said he was not surprised by Leonard-Osbourne’s immediate dominance on the football pitch . After the season was over, Tobia said he believed Leonard-Osbourne’s success will continue on the track.
“He came in immediately and had a pretty big impact,” Tobia said. “He’s winning his touches now and he’s setting himself up on the football field. Hope to see him have another big impact there as well.
A central point of Leonard-Osbourne’s commitment to college was the opportunity to play football while continuing to run. He said he believed each sport was positively reflected in its performance in the other.
“The track definitely helps with football because when I first arrived at the camp [this past fall]I was so fit, ”said Leonard-Osbourne. “Football is correlated [to track] because I am in good shape all year round.
With two other athletes currently on the football and track teams, Leonard-Osbourne looks forward to seeing more competitors expand their sporting horizons.
“I think athletes should play more than one sport,” Leonard-Osbourne said. “Not just for exposure, but to stay in shape and be able to make connections.”
Tobia said that while Leonard-Osbourne is a talented athlete, playing two sports in college is no easy task.
“It’s a lot of work, you have to be a committed enough athlete to be able to handle the workload of both sports,” said Tobia. “You have to have good time management skills, especially with lessons. It’s great fun if you can handle it.
Going forward, Leonard-Osbourne will seek to continue to prove that athletic excellence can be achieved in several sports at the college level.
“I’m trying to win the national championship in the 60 meters this winter,” he said. “And in football, I would like to win a conference championship and see how far we go as a team.”