The Duke Decision: Cross Country and Track's Will Leister
Photo Courtesy: Duke Photography
Editors Note: I remember getting my first college soccer recruiting phone call. My Dad handed me the phone saying, “It’s the head coach at Oregon, and he wants to speak with you.” The phone calls turned into letters, the letters into emails, and eventually I took four out of five official visits to schools around the country. I verbally committed to Florida State University where I played for one full year before transferring to the University of Nevada at Las Vegas and graduating in the spring of 2008.
The pressure that today’s student-athletes face when making the decision to commit to a college or university has changed drastically even since I went through the process. Over the course of the year, I’ll be sitting down with our student-athletes to find out why they made, “The Duke Decision.”
A native of Columbus, Ohio, Will Leister, a senior cross country and track student-athlete grew up right down the street from Ohio State. I assumed Ohio State would at least have been one of his final two choices, however he only applied to Duke. Even when I pressed Will to discuss his other choices, he said, “I think I’ve wanted to come to Duke since I was five years old.” Leister was a Blue Devil living in Buckeye country, and so was his family. His father, who is an Iron Dukes member, went to Duke Law School, and his mother and brother received their undergraduate degrees from Duke. Even still, he felt no pressure to become a Duke Blue Devil.
Leister’s parents actually had him go visit other schools before deciding on Duke, but for him none of the others stacked up. Being able to run was as he put it, “secondary” to academics. “I wasn’t going to go to a school to run and sacrifice anything academically which made Duke a good fit.”
Will was confident that Duke was the right fit for him, but how he ended up becoming a runner wasn’t something that came as easily. He wanted to be an athlete but in high school, his cross country coach approached him and said, “Let’s be honest, you don’t have a future in other sports, give running a try.” Will admits he wasn’t thrilled at first, but after giving it a try, he’s found nothing but success. “Running well and succeeding and continuing my athletic career is just a way to pay tribute to the coaches along the way that helped me get to where I am.”
Leister has recently taken the LSAT and is hoping to head to law school after graduation in the spring. Unlike the process he took to get to Duke, he’s applying to more than one school. Of course like the decision he made for his running career, Duke is his top choice.
Even as a lawyer, Leister “[plans] to stay in shape, I’ve always been interested in running marathons and triathlons.”
When I asked Will to look back at his time here at Duke, and tell me what the Duke Decision meant to him he gave the following answer with a nostalgic look on his face: “Duke provides an excellent opportunity not just for success while you’re on campus for four years athletically and academically, but also down the road. It’s a great opportunity to succeed professionally to develop lasting relationships that you can use in professional and personal aspects in your life.”
For Will, his Duke Decision will last him a lifetime.