Leighton, who won the Class 4 District 1 cross country race Saturday, went for a run after returning home from the meet.
"It's something that I usually just do," Leighton said. "Me and my coach usually talk about it the week before and say, 'All right, after the race we can still get some more work in.' That way you can kind of get some more training in that day of the race because really the main goal is state, so every race is almost kind of like a practice, too."
Leighton covered the 3.1-mile course at Jackson City Park in 16 minutes, 32.38 seconds.
"You can never be disappointed with a win, but I would have liked to have ran faster," he said. "I got out a little too aggressive the first half-mile to mile, and I paid for it at the end because it was getting pretty difficult, especially when you're out there all alone. I was kind of just racing the clock for most of the race, but it was a good day. I'll take it."
Leighton did not run on Central's cross country team last season. He sat out the year after a bout with Sever's disease -- a condition affecting the heels -- during his freshman year.
"I couldn't really run," he said. "In track I strained my calf, and it set me back. So really I was just battling a lot of injuries my freshman year. I just needed to take a season off.
"Racing every weekend, it takes a toll on your body, and I just needed a break. I figured my sophomore year of cross country would probably be the best year to just take a break from it for a while."
Leighton advanced to Saturday's Class 4 Sectional 1 meet at Parkway Central.
"He just needs to focus on what he does, and that actually is a focus for the next race and hopefully the race after that at state," Central coach Mark Hahn said. "He has so much experience and he has worked so hard to put himself in this good position that he needs to just worry about what he does well. Everything else will be fine."