A year ago, Léa Kerbiriou embarked on a 4,000 mile flight from France and landed in Philadelphia, her first time in the United States.
“When I first came here, the only words I said to people were ‘yes’, ‘yes’ and ‘hello’,” Kerbiriou said. “But my English has improved a lot over the months. “
Kerbiriou traveled to Philadelphia to join the Temple University cross country and track team during the fall semester. Upon arrival, she was amazed at how different the city’s culture was from her hometown in France, and relied on her teammates to help her adjust both on and off. of the track.
Kerbiriou is originally from Tarbes, France, a small town of 42,000 inhabitants. She has been involved in track and field since the age of nine, indulging in jumps and throws until she met her personal running trainer, Brice Leroy, three years ago. Leroy helped Kerbiriou find pleasure in running, and she still talks to him to this day.
Before coming to Temple from France, Kerbiriou was the national 800m indoor track champion in 2020 and also won the national under-18 vice-title over 800m in 2019.
While deciding where to attend college, she was recruited by Temple women’s athletics head coach Elvis Forde and women’s cross country head coach James Snyder.
“We recruited heavily and had high expectations of her,” Snyder said. “We knew what she was capable of.
Besides her desire to join the cross country program, Keribriou chose to run in Temple because she liked the cooler weather in the city and the taller buildings, she said.
“I didn’t want to go to a place where it was too hot,” Kerbiriou said. “I knew the program and the team were great, and after a few Zoom meetings with the coaches that went well, everything was fine. “
However, when she first arrived in Philadelphia, Kerbiriou struggled to adjust due to the city’s diversity and small size compared to her hometown.
Over time, Philadelphia started to feel right at home after she started exploring the city and making friends both on and off the track. As she adjusted to the new slang, Kerbiriou began to bond with her fellow runners, turning to teammates like senior captain Michelle Joyce for support during training, she said.
“We help each other every day,” Kerbiriou said. “Some of my teammates like Michelle [Joyce] Always pushes me with long distance races, she’s a great leader.
Running with another person was an adjustment for Kerbiriou as she often ran alone in France and was unsure how running with a group would affect her.
Since joining the team, Kerbirou has enjoyed running with her teammates and says that it also benefits her training.
Joyce and Kerbiriou have used their own strengths to help each other and push the other in training, although the two specialize in different events. Back home, Kerbiriou often worked strictly on the track, so going long distances on different trails was new to her, but Joyce was able to help Kerbiriou gain mileage off the track as she is more experienced in this domain.
« [Kerbiriou] is great, we have a really good balance with each other, ”Joyce said. “It has always been great to run with her. ”
In her debut season, Kerbiriou won conference honors and broke a personal best 21: 51.97 6 km in the 2020 Sports Conference U.S. Championship meet, where she finished in 10th place .
Without the support of the Owls, Kerbiriou would not have been successful last year, she said.
Kerbiriou suffered a hip injury ahead of her second meeting at the Iona Meet of Champions on September 17, she said.
“Unfortunately, I got injured,” Kerbiriou said. “However, if I get back in time, I will try to qualify for the national championships. “