Track and field fans are learning more about what really drives Leah Nugent.
After watching the tall 5’8″ figure grace the 2016 Rio Olympic Games six months ago, they’re still astounded by her achievements. Fans caught a glimpse of her transition from an All-American at Abington High School, and graduate of the University of Kentucky, to the Olympic arena.
Leah fell short of winning a gold medal at the Olympic finals and placed sixth in the women’s 400-meter hurdles. She ran a personal best of 54.45. Since Rio she has improved her time.
Nurture the talent
In elementary school, Leah’s parents, Errol and Kim Nugent, enrolled her in gymnastics, then cheernastics, a combination of tumbling, gymnastics, and cheerleading all at the same time. In the sixth grade she started running track. “We saw that she was a gifted runner and that’s where we supported her,” said Errol Nugent, who with his wife Kim have two other children, sons Jorrel Rex and Devin.
During the transition from high school to college, Nugent remembers the challenges Leah faced on the intercollegiate level, but encouraged her to remain focused. “She was always a hard worker,” said Nugent. “When Leah lost, we told her that she wasn’t always going to come in first, but that she could do anything that she set [her] mind to do.”
Keep them grounded
Spirituality is an integral part of Leah’s life. Before leaving for college, Leah was active in her father’s church, True Worship Church of God in Christ, in Philadelphia, Pa. Leah read the church announcements, sang on the choir and was involved in youth ministry. “She not only prayed but she listened to gospel songs,” said Nugent.
Nugent urges parents of young Christian athletes to guide their children in sound doctrine and to lead by example. “Continue to keep [children] grounded in the church as they pursue their athletic goal. Encourage them with Scriptures.”
Appreciate the journey
This winter, Leah is preparing to run in the 110th NYRR Millrose Games on February 11 at The Armory’s New Balance Track and Field Center. At the Millrose Games. Leah will try to improve her personal best in the 60-meter hurdles.
Leah lives and trains miles away from her family, but the teachings instilled in her by her parents remain. If there is one takeaway for this young woman’s journey it would be that the totality of life is more than track.
“It’s bigger than me,” wrote Leah on social media. “God has shown me who He is in so many different ways. When people say you can’t, God says you can. I hope to inspire people to dream big, because if you truly and whole heartedly believe in God, He will make a way. [You] may have to endure some storms to get stronger but you will get there. No, I’m not perfect, but I am a living testimony that God will not give up on you even when you give up on yourself.”
An athlete with a humble character, Leah has great expectations.