Healthy Landis saw big results at Ohio State

Mark Hazelwood • Jun 12, 2019 at 7:00 PM

COLUMBUS — As soon as Luke Landis crossed the finish line, he walked right off the track.

There was no celebration or reaction for the 2015 Norwalk graduate and Ohio State University redshirt junior.

It was May 25, and Landis had just finished in fifth place in the 5,000-meter distance run at the NCAA East track and field preliminary championships at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville.

With his time of 14:15.65, Landis had earned the final automatic spot to qualify for the NCAA championships on June 7 at the University of Texas in Austin.

And Landis simply couldn’t believe it had happened for him — until it actually did.

“I had to ask my coach, ‘Did that really just happen?’” Landis said. “We were both real excited. But I think it was a huge validation to all the training and hard work that went into the season.

“It felt fulfilling to end the season at the NCAAs, which is everyone’s goal,” he added. “To be around all of those elite athletes and share a starting line with them … it kind of hits you that, ‘Hey, maybe I’m there with them, too.’”

And while Landis hoped for a better finish than 23rd — and was a minute slower (15:16) — at the NCAA championship race on June 7, there is little disappointment.

After all, this school year was the first time since Landis walked off the podium with a silver medal as the Div. I state runners-up in the 3200 in 2015 at Norwalk that he was healthy.

“I felt like it was a season I can come away from happy as a whole — but wanting a little more,” Landis said.


Battling injuries

This season’s cross country and track season for the Buckeyes was the first time in four years in Columbus that Landis didn’t have an injury of some kind.

Multiple times, he endured stress fractures in his left foot to the third and fourth metatarsal bones.

“My progress was always stunted those first three years without being able to get any consistent training in,” Landis said.

Landis competed in five cross country events for Ohio State as a true freshman. That was followed by a strong indoor track season in 2016, running the mile, 1500-meter run and the 3000.

Landis ran in another six cross country events as a sophomore in the fall of 2016, including the Big Ten championships in the 8K (61st, 25:15) and the Great Lakes Region championships in the 10K (75th, 32:11.2).

After another very good showing in January 2017 during the Indoor season, including 14th place at the Big Ten championships in late February, Landis was then injured and competed just once in an 11-month stretch.

“I took the talent I had for granted in high school too much,” Landis said. “I didn’t pay attention to the little things while upping the intensity of college training.

“I wasn’t sleeping enough and was staying up too late doing school work — and my diet wasn’t the greatest,” he added. “I’ve gotten better with that and have taken advantage of the training resources at Ohio State.”

But then all 10 of his appearances during the Jan.-Feb. 2018 Indoor season set up Landis for a big 2018-19 school year.

“I probably spend an hour each day stretching now, which I didn’t do in high school,” Landis said. “I wasn’t aware how important those things were because I didn’t need to do it as much at Norwalk. I wasn’t taking advantage of it here, and it kind of bit me with the stress fractures and cost me my junior year of cross country.”


On the way back

At the Outdoor Big Ten championships last year, Landis had an impressive showing, placing ninth (3:52.94) in the 1500.

He was then able to parlay that into a solid cross country season last fall.

Then came the big moment in January.

Competing at the Columbia Challenge on Jan. 24 in New York City, Landis ran the mile in 4:02.69 to place third in the event. The drop in time was nearly four full seconds than his previous best in the mile (4:06.31).

“We weren’t planning on it, and it kind of came out of nowhere,” Landis said of the time. “It gave me confidence in the rest of the year. Late in the fall, I kind of felt like it would be a solid season. But to have a full year of training without an injury was huge.

“Since I’ve been back, I haven’t even had a little injury that sets me back a day or two,” he added. “I’ve been able to stay healthy and train six days a week for 54 straight weeks.”

After placing 11th at the Big Ten Indoors on Feb. 23 in the mile, Landis opened his outdoor season by placing anywhere from first-to-fifth in six events over a one month stretch.

Landis was then 16th in the 5000 (14:57) May 11 at the Big Ten championships, which set him up for the NCAA East qualifier on May 25 to earn the trip to the NCAA championships.

“I finally got the chance to run a 5k with fall buildup since 2015 when I was at Norwalk,” Landis said. “With a big time drop there, it gave me confidence I’d be able to make the national meet.

“I’d say in September there was no way I thought I’d be able to make it,” he added. “But early fall and during the winter, I established that confidence early. That really is what led to me having poise and composure to run a more tactful race at the regionals.”


One more year

Granted a medical redshirt, Landis said he wasn’t ready to let go of running for the Buckeyes if the chance was there.

He’ll return for a fifth year in both cross country and track, beginning this fall. He will not run the indoor season, however.

A finance major, Landis said he will have two classes remaining that he plans on spacing out to complete his college credits.

He is a three-time Ohio State Scholar-Athlete, and twice has been named Academic All-Big Ten and Distinguished Scholar. The Big Ten will announce the 2018-19 winners next month.

“I started work on Monday in Denver for a two-month internship,” Landis said. “There are seven guys on the team out here. Our goal last fall was to go to train at altitude for the summer.

“Right now we’re taking a little downtime right after the season, but the goal is to experience a different state, and building up a base to take into cross country in the fall,” he added.

Looking ahead, Landis knows last week’s NCAA performance wasn’t the best. But with continued good health, he believes the best may still be yet to come.

“I kine of let the big stage get me star struck. I gave guys too much credit and myself not enough,” Landis said of the NCAA race. “But it was a good season. It’s been a good experience and I’ve loved representing Ohio State.

“Growing up in Ohio, and the opportunity comes for you to take that on yourself … it’s been fun for sure,” he added. “I’ve learned a lot and made a big jump this season. I may have surprised some people, but next year I won’t do that. I feel established now.”



Luke Landis at a glance

College bests


— 800m: 1:55.12

— 1500: 3:47.76

— 1600: 4:02.69

— 3000: 8:11.15

— 5000: 14:04.29

Cross country:

— 5K: 16:13.7

— 6K: 18:25.1

— 8K: 24:33.4

— 10K: 32:07.7

Honors and Awards:

— Three-time Ohio State Scholar-Athlete

— Two-time Academic All-Big Ten*

— Two-time Big Ten Distinguished Scholar*

* — 2018-19 winners announced in July


— 2015 Midwest Meet of Champions first place in 3200

— 2015 OHSAA Div. I state runners-up in 3200

— 2014 OHSAA Div. I state runners-up in 4x800 relay

— 2014 OHSAA Div. I state 14th place in 3200

— 2014 OHSAA Div. I state cross country qualifier

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