Playing sports with a university, much less signing a scholarship to do so, was never something 18-year-old Cathy McCleod envisioned, but on May 7, that’s exactly what the Zachary High senior did.

After reviewing McCleod’s statistics and record in the shot put on a website, Dillard University came calling.

“They contacted me, so I sent them a highlight tape, and we arranged a meeting,” McCleod said.

McLeod participated on the ZHS track and field team her freshman through sophomore years, taking her senior year off to focus on the Cooperative Office Education program, which combines classroom-based education with practical work experience, so the senior says she was a little surprised at the offer to throw shot put for the Bleu Devils.

When she arrived at ZHS in ninth grade from Bethany Christian School in Baker, McLeod wanted to try something new, so she attempted the shot put.

“Turns out I was pretty decent at it, so I stuck with it, but competing in sports in college, no, this has taken me by surprise. I was going to focus strictly on school,” McLeod said.

The Zachary senior also is a two-time state champion, having been part of the ZHS Olympic weight lifting team the past two years; has held various officer positions in the BETA and Interact clubs; was recently crowned Miss Black Teen Louisiana; and has maintained active participation in her church, Magnolia Full Gospel Baptist Church in St. Francisville, since age 5.

McLeod’s parents, Shelly and Frank McLeod, and godparents Doris and William Nixon are all proud of her, she said.

“In the fall, I’m going to launch my own nonprofit mentoring organization in the Baton Rouge area for girls age 9 to 18. It’s going to be called ABLE, which stands for ambitious, beautiful leaders of excellence,” McLeod said. “The mission will be to encourage young ladies to stand in the face of diversity while striving to make a difference and promoting excellence in the world around them.”