When Leah Heckaman ’14 (Plymouth, Ind.) started her track and field career in seventh grade at LaVille Junior High School, she was a sprinter.
“My friend Kennedy Thompson (’14, Plymouth, Ind.) told me I should try out in seventh grade,” Heckaman said. “I started by running the 100 and 4-by-100 relay.”
But since switching from sprinting to the throwing events, Heckaman has been on the fast track of success.
The Culver Girls Academy thrower is now preparing for her third straight trip to the state finals at Indiana University on June 1. She won both the shot put and discus at the Plymouth Sectional, setting a CGA and sectional record in the shot put in the process. Then she won both events at the Warsaw Regional – a repeat of last year’s performance.
But even with all her success, Heckaman knows there is more distance out there – or, rather, in her.
That is why she changed her training routine this spring. After two years of tapering off her weight training as the season enters the tournament phase, Heckaman is maintaining her full lifting routine this spring. The emphasis is on getting stronger “all the way through” the season, she said.
And, evidently, it is working. She broke the school and sectional records in the shot put at the Plymouth Sectional on May 14 with a throw of 42 feet, 2.5 inches. That toss was eight feet farther than the runner-up. Her winning throw of 132 feet, 0.5 inches in the discus was 28 farther than the nearest competitor.
Heckaman’s two first place finishes were half of the Eagles’ sectional win total as they captured the team title. One of the team captains, she almost missed her turn in the discus because she kept running over to the track to cheer on her teammates during the dramatic 4×400 relay that sealed the win.
While her winning throws at Warsaw were not as impressive – 40 feet, 10.75 inches in the shot put and 128 feet, 3 inches for the discus – she told the South Bend Tribune, “I didn’t put everything together the way I wanted tonight, not everything clicked, but I’ve got a week to work it out before state.”
Her weight training routine includes the Olympic lifts like clean-and-press, squats, deadlift, and a lot of core work. She works on her explosion through the circle with speed training and plyometrics. She also does a lot of flexibility work.
She is also preparing for her summer season, which will include a trip to the New Balance Nationals Outdoor June 14-16 in Greensboro, N.C. She also threw the shot at the New Balance Nationals Indoor in New York early this year. Her goal was to place in the top six, which didn’t happen, but the experience and the competition made the trip more than worthwhile, she said.
This summer also allows Heckaman to throw the javelin in AAU competitions. She is the district champion in that event and she said she is considering adding that in college along with the discus and shot put.
And she is already getting interest from several colleges. Since she is a junior, no contact can occur until after June, but colleges have been sending letters of interest and the process will start in earnest while she is on summer break.