By Gavin Menu
It was a tough decision, but one Allura Leggard made with big dreams in mind. The Pierson High School senior, who holds the indoor track record in East Hampton for the 55-meter dash, has decided to train and compete as an independent this winter, foregoing her final season with the Lady Bonackers.
“I need to go to meets in the city, at the Armory, Ocean Breeze and Colgate — it was something I needed to do for college and to get more notice,” Leggard said on Monday, referring to three locations in New York where some of the biggest indoor track meets are held. “It was such a difficult decision to make, especially for my senior year.”
Feeling isolated on the East End of Long Island is nothing new for elite athletes hoping to advance to the next level. For Leggard, whose time of 7.40 seconds in the 55 meters last winter tied East Hampton’s school record, the dream of sprinting in college trumped the desire to compete as a member of a team in winter track. She also passed up her senior season playing field hockey at Pierson, deciding to focus instead on year-round sprint training, but on Monday said she plans to return to East Hampton for spring track and one more go around at high school athletics.
“I definitely see myself getting lower times this year with all the training I’ve been doing,” said Leggard, who trains regularly with a sprint coach and works out at Integrated Exercise Therapy in Bridgehampton.
Leggard made her debut in the prestigious Colgate Women’s Games on Saturday, racing in the High School division at the Pratt Institute in New York City. She competed in the 200-meter dash and posted a time of 27.8 seconds. She also ran the 55 meters, and finished 12th out of a group of 85 racers with a time of 7.56 seconds in the semifinal round.
Both times are well off her personal bests, but it was also Leggard’s first time competing on the track, which has tight turns in the 200 and no starting blocks in the 55. Leggard will compete through December and into January in the Colgate games, with some bigger races at the Armory, located in Washington Heights, also on the horizon, including the world-renowned Millrose Games, which feature some of the best track athletes in the world. Leggard admits that track meet is a lofty goal, one she can reach only through qualifying in the Millrose Trials, which are held in January in advance of the February 11 games.
“It’s a very big meet. I would say it’s one tier down from nationals,” said Leggard, who said she would have to shave at least a tenth of a second off her school record time of 7.40 to even come close to qualifying. “They only want the best to compete.”
Leggard also has eyes set on another prize — a track scholarship to attend college next season. Leggard, who is a member of the National Honor Society at Pierson and has applied to a host of colleges, said the University of Miami is at the top of her list in terms of a dream destination as a sprinter. Miami might be another lofty goal, Leggard admits, but it’s those big aspirations, she said, that keeps her reaching higher and higher with every passing week.
“Track is a very hard sport to get a scholarship in. I practice every day except for Saturday or Sunday, or if I have a meet on Saturday, then on Sunday I’ll just go to yoga to make sure I’m all stretched out.” Leggard said with a laugh, adding that yoga might also provide a bit of grounding this winter while she continues to shoot for the stars.