NASHVILLE, Tenn. – When he reached sixth grade, Jacob McLeod joined his school's track and field team, just like his older brother Kaleb had. When he graduated high school, Jacob had his sights set on Belmont University, again just like his brother.
A highly touted prep recruit, Jacob chose the Bruins over a number of prominent cross country programs for the opportunity to once more run with his brother and to elevate Belmont to a new level.
So far so good. The pair has been the team's top two finishers in both of this season's first two races.
"It's been great so far, everything I could have asked for," said Jacob, a freshman. "That was something I really missed the past few years in high school, running with him."
Kaleb, a redshirt junior, blazed the trail from the runners' hometown of Soperton, Ga. Both enjoyed highly decorated high school careers at Trinity Christian School in nearby Dublin, Ga., and Kaleb's success has been helping the Bruins for years already.
He's a two-time NCAA All-South Region competitor and a major piece of a potential breakout year the Bruins see for themselves this fall. With tested returners like he, senior Matt Edwards (Barry, Wales) and junior Declan McManus (Worcestershire, England) combining with talented newcomers like Jacob and junior Aidan Thompson (Dunfermline, Scotland), Belmont has aspirations of reaching NCAA Nationals.
To get there the Bruins will have to keep improving as the season extends, and that goes for both veterans and rookies alike. They'll do it through teamwork, Kaleb said. He's nearly as focused on helping his younger sibling drop time on the course as he is on his own performances.
"While we're racing and if we're together, I've been trying to help him settle in or let him know when it's time to go, picking it up," Kaleb said. "I'm just trying to share my experience with him."
Jacob has edged out his older brother in both the Bruins' races thus far, including a Belmont Opener victory on Aug. 31 at Percy Warner Park. Kaleb was less than a second behind though.
Of course, he let little bro win that one, Kaleb explained with a sly smile.
"We kind of jogged in on that one, so I let him beat me there so he could get his first W," Kaleb said while Jacob laughed nearby.
They'll next race for bragging rights at the highly competitive Louisville Classic next weekend in Louisville, Ky. The race on Saturday, Sept. 29 will be a good measuring stick for where the Bruins truly stand in the South Region this year.
"It's a lot more competitive, but I really like it so far," Jacob said of facing that kind of college competition. "That's what I was really looking forward to, because sometimes it's hard to find really good competition in high school. It's not hard to find that here."