Kristine Rothwell remembers going to the grocery story with her little brother, Grady Leonard, when he was in elementary school.
“He’d be doing (shot put and discus) drills in the aisles,” Rothwell said. “He was obsessed with it. The slippery floors made it easy for him to imitate throwing. You could see he wanted to do it and he was going to take what it took to be good at it.”
Leonard, who is 9 years younger than his sister, watched her win a state title in the shot in 2008. That stoked the fire for him.
Today, Leonard has three personal coaches including his sister, who went on to throw at the University of Idaho.
Sounds like the makings of too many chefs in the kitchen.
“Sometimes we have to back off because of that,” said Bart Templeman, one of the co-founders of Ironwood Throwers Camp and one of Leonard’s coaches. “We have to be real careful we don’t overcoach him.”
With so many eyes watching his every move, Leonard’s mistakes can be picked up quite easily. But at the level Leonard is throwing, he’s not making many mistakes.
“He can coach himself almost,” Templeman said. “He can go coach anywhere he wanted. He’s that good.”
Leonard’s third coach is Bob McKay, a former junior college throws coach from California.
No wonder when Coeur d’Alene head track coach Justin Aguilar deflects all questions about Leonard to his coaches.
“They know way more about him than me,” Aguilar said.
“The three of us tag team and work as a team,” Rothwell said. “Grady is in such a league of his own right now that it takes everybody’s help to make sure he gets what he needs.”
Rothwell accompanied Leonard to the Arcadia Invitational, one of the top meets in the nation, last weekend near Los Angeles. He crushed CdA’s record in the discus (175 feet) by throwing 188-5.
The competition was so good that his personal best was only good enough for ninth. The top five throwers eclipsed 200.
“It was a magnificent competition,” Leonard said.
Leonard took second in the shot put, throwing 63-6 3/4. He opened the season by extending his school record to 64-3 at the Lewiston Invite.
Leonard benefits greatly from having Templeman and McKay as coaches. Templeman built an outdoor and indoor training facility on 10 acres of property he owns on State Highway 53 near Rathdrum for his camps and events. It’s called 1620 because it’s the physical address.
Leonard doesn’t carry a key to the facility, but he knows where Templeman keeps it. It’s akin to a basketball player having a key to the high school gym.
Early in the season, Leonard was hearing conflicting instruction from the coaches. They got together and worked it out.
All told, there’s more than 100 years coaching experience among the trio.
“They all bring great aspects to me,” Leonard said. “That’s a lot of wisdom from those guys.”
McKay broke down the contributed elements like this: “Kristine is his meet manager and works with him in both events. Bart is more or less the technical guy. And I handle the strength training.”
Leonard began working with McKay last August. He’s added nearly 30 pounds of weight since last year – most of it muscle and strength.
He’s ahead of the curve for most of his peers, but he doesn’t turn 18 until late May. Templeman said he should be a junior, and his parents kick themselves for not holding him back a year.
It’s a competitive year for trying to land a scholarship. Most of his peers were courting offers last year. Leonard was behind because he didn’t compete as a sophomore.
He transferred from Lakeland at the start of his sophomore year before his parents had sold their home in Rathdrum. Two weeks into the season, he was told he couldn’t compete because he still didn’t live in CdA’s boundaries.
When he broke the school record in the shot put (60-7 1/4) while winning at state last year, he got on college coaches radar a little late.
His 64-3 throw in mid-March caught college coaches’ attention.
“His phone has been ringing off the hook since,” McKay said.
Penn State noticed and Leonard is arranging a recruiting trip. He’s also talking with Indiana and has already visited Cal State Northridge.
Leonard set big goals this season. Hes want to defend his state title in the shot and capture gold in the discus.
In the process, he wants to break the state meet overall records in the shot (64-9) and discus (203-9), set by former Post Falls and Washington State standout Ian Waltz.
“Everything I’m doing is building toward that,” Leonard said.
Templeman believes Leonard has yet to try his best event.
“His best event could be hammer,” Templeman said. “He has such great feet and is so quick. That will help him in the hammer.”
Leonard is grateful to have his coaches – especially since the work of Templeman and McKay is all volunteer.
“They’ve done wonders for me,” Leonard said. “They’re worth all the money in the world.”
“When you have a kid like Grady who is so into what he’s doing – we’re the luckiest coaches in the world to coach kids like him,” Templeman said.
Leonard actually has a fourth coach. His father, Neil, was a thrower in college.
Dad is more hands off, though. He’ll watch video at home with his son and offer tips. Other than that, he leaves most of the technical things to the others.
McKay believes Leonard can hit bigger numbers before the season is over.
“Throwing the discus is like surfers looking for the right wave,” McKay said. “Discus throwers are looking for the right wind.”
Leonard isn’t focused on big gains at the moment.
“Coach Mac always says, ‘Yard by yard is hard. Inch by inch is a cinch,’ ”
In that regard, it’s been a cinch so far for Leonard.