Leach hurdling to Vanguard
For The Madera Tribune
Madera’s Penelopi Leach looks over her paperwork before signing her National Letter of Intent to run the hurdles for the Vanguard University track team.
Madera hurdler Penelopi is bucking the trend of Coyote track athletes running for a college.
Rather than a distance runner, Leach, a hurdler, signed a National Letter of Intent to Vanguard University. She said she might even do the heptathlon for the team.
At Vanguard, Leach will have to retire her soccer cleats, although she will still be able to lace up her track cleats.
“I have played soccer all of my life,” she said. “Track was the second thing I did. There’s something different about track. I really liked playing soccer because of the relationships I made with the team. Track really pushed me mentally. It’s more of a singular sport. You have to rely on yourself a lot and push yourself. There’s no one there to pick you up. I just really liked that aspect. I had the option of going to Fresno City to play soccer or to Vanguard to run track. I just felt like it was time to make the change.”
Leach was also looking at Redlands and Occidental for college choices, but chose Vanguard.
“It was better financially,” she said. “I got some academic scholarships to go there. The fact that it’s a Christian college, I am pretty strong in my faith. I got to talk to the coach and a few athletes and how they have been challenged in their faith. They said they grew a lot in their faith and as a person. The whole atmosphere of the campus gave me a lot of peace. It felt right going there.”
The fact that her college choices for Leach were all in California didn’t come by accident.
“I always told people I would never leave California.” she said. “It’s the best, in my opinion. You have the beach, the mountains and the Central Valley. There’s no reason why I would live anywhere else. I love the warm weather.”
Before Leach even thought about running track at Vanguard, she received a sizable academic scholarship from the school. From there, she emailed the track coach to see about getting more scholarship money to attend the school.
“They were very interested in helping me out to get me on the team,” Leach said. “I went on a visit and they gave me an offer that really helped me out and made my choice.”
Leach carries a 4.18 grade point average and will major in business marketing.
“I’m going to take a few classes media productions,” she said. “That’s another reason why I chose Vanguard was those were the two pathways I was super interested in. The fact they had both of them was great. I really want to go into marketing and commercialization. I think by getting my degree in business marketing will help me make commercials for companies. I love making videos. My dream would be sports companies like Nike, Under Armour and Adiddas. Going that route and being in the Los Angeles area will help me out.”
Leach, who signed her NLI on April 18 with just her parents and sister watching, was upset about her track season abruptly ending and not having a chance to chase down a couple of school records.
“I would have been more emotional if it was soccer because of the team aspect,” she said. “I was still practicing with track and working out. I was hoping to get school records for the hurdles so that bummed me out. I feel better knowing I had a season ahead of me.”
Leach is using this quarantine time to spend more time with her family before she leaves to Southern California in the fall.
“This quarantine is good for me because I can spend time that I would have missed having with my family,” she said. “It’s pushing me towards leaving because of the time I’m spending with my family. I know it’s going to be hard making the switch, but at the same time, I’m ready for something different. It gives me something to look forward to. I’m super excited and I’ve been talking to a lot of my teammates.”
Leach looks back at the impact she and her other seniors have left on the track team and she is proud of what she was able to accomplish.
“We started out with a few hurdlers,” she said. “By the end, we were the hardest working group out there. We were the first ones there and were the last ones to leave. Even off the track, in school, just being able to make new friendships and talk to people really got me out there.”
One of the activities that Leach did was making videos for the school, football team, ASB and other organizations. She received plenty of praise for the videos, which she shot and produced.
“I was really shocked about how much support I got from making them,” she said. “I was happy how it resulted and how much love came from them. People were happy to see another source of creativity to Madera High. It filled up my resumé, I guess.”
Now, Leach looks forward to going down to Los Angeles to continue her track and filmmaking career and her parents are looking forward to the visits.
“I was worried about the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles,” she said. “Then, we drove out to Costa Mesa and it was relaxed and welcoming. I was super excited about that.
“My parents love Disneyland and Vanguard is only 20 minutes away. I’m sure they will be making a lot of trips. My sister is part of a group stationed in Huntington Beach so she will be there for me.”