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North Central thrower Hailey Leeking dedicates season to mother

It was a week after the State 3A track and field meet last year and North Central thrower Hailey Leeking was understandably still celebrating.

For good reason. Leeking had put the shot 40 feet, 5 1/4 inches to take second.

Her joy ended abruptly, though, when her mother, JoAnne Leeking, died suddenly.

An autopsy revealed a congenital heart defect.

Her mother had been her biggest supporter.

“It’s definitely been hard to deal with, especially with track starting (last month), because my mom was a huge part of my track experiences,” she said. “I’m doing the best that I can.”

“It blindsided all of us,” NC coach Kelly Harmon said.

A senior, Leeking has dedicated the season to her mom.

“She’s on my heart and mind right now,” she said. “She’s always on my mind and the track season has magnified it a little bit.”

Harmon has been impressed with how well Leeking has dealt with grief.

“She has had good support,” Harmon said. “Our NC family has wrapped their arms around her. I think she’s done marvelously well.”

Leeking started the season well, throwing a personal-best 124-11 in the discus.

It’s a much better start than how the season ended last spring. The discus was held on Thursday, the opening day at state. Leeking fouled on her first two attempts and threw well short of her season best at 106-1. She finished 13th.

“I’m not exactly sure what happened,” she said. “I think I was just in my head too much and stressed out about trying to do well.”

Leeking flushed it from her mind two days later in the shot.

“I had my most consistent marks all season,” Leeking said.

Her six throws were bunched between 39-9 1/4 and the second-place clinching throw.

Leeking has set her goals high this season. She wants state titles in both.

Potentially standing in her way are the defending state champs. Hadassah Ward of Gig Harbor won shot with 44-4 1/2 and Dreakeanna Adair of Bonney Lake won discus with 134-4.

“With dedication and a lot of hard work (two state titles) is something that’s very achievable,” Leeking said.

Leeking also wants to leave her mark on NC’s school records. Sabrina Keys holds both records, set her senior season in 2014 – 45-7 in the shot, 135-9 in the discus.

“She could go another 4 feet, if not more, in the shot and she could get in the 130s to 140 in the discus,” Harmon said. “There still are some technical aspects we have to work on.”

League duals begin next week. Counting those meets, invitationals and postseason, she’ll have about 10 more opportunities to go after the school marks.

She’s attended the top summer camp in the region, Iron Wood Throws Camp, the last two years.

“It’s helped me tremendously,” she said. “There are a lot of different coaches there and you get a lot of different ideas to fix things.”

Leeking, who has a 3.8 grade-point average, wants to throw in college. She’s hoping a strong season will bring offers.

She wants to be a nurse.

“We have a lot of nurses in our family,” she said. “I definitely want to do something that helps people.”

Leeking knows what it takes to improve – it’s meshing the mental with the physical.

What drives her in the throws is simple.

“I want to throw better than I’m throwing now,” she said.

That’s something her mom would be proud to hear.