Morgann Leleux was fresh off an All-American performance, having cleared 14-feet, 5¼-inches to finish as the NCAA outdoor runner-up in her freshman season at Georgia.
Next stop: the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials, where the New Iberia native was riding the wave of a momentum in her first season in college, fueling her hopes of making the U.S. Olympic team.
Adding to her level of confidence was a second-place finish during the college season at the Drake Relays where Leleux went head to head with some of the United States’ top professional vaulters.
The U.S. Trials’ experience, though, was hardly memorable with Leleux clearing only one height and failing to qualify for the final in the event.
For the first time her Olympic dream, one that began to drive Leleux as a promising 6-year-old gymnast, suddenly seemed improbable as 19-year-old pole vaulter.
“My chances of making that team were pretty far-fetched,” Leleux said. “I’m this little bitty freshman, going in there and thinking I was going to make this team, and it was a rough meet.”
Fast forward four years to the same venue — The University of Oregon’s Hayward Field — where Leleux is back representing Louisiana-Lafayette for another opportunity to earn one of three pole vaulting spots on the U.S. Olympic team bound for Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.
Preliminaries begin in the women’s pole vault competition at 5 p.m. Friday, where Leleux is part of a 24-member field competing in two flights of 12 vaulters. The top 12 advance to Sunday’s final at 4:30 p.m. with the top three making the U.S. Olympic team.
“Most of those girls are all good,” Leleux said. “No matter what, I’m still competing against that next flight because it’s the top 12. I have to make it through prelims. I have to jump high because the girls are better this time around.”
So is Leleux.
She’s just over a month removed from her second NCAA outdoor runner-up finish, clearing 14-1½ to become the first female pole vaulter in UL-Louisiana history to earn All-American honors — the fifth of her career.
Unlike her approach leading up to the 2012 trials, Leleux took the advice of her father-coach Shane Leleux — a former Southeastern Louisiana pole vaulter — and didn’t compete again following the NCAA meet.
By her own admission, Leleux’s spring wasn’t too taxing. She competed in six meets — winning three and placing second in the NCAAs — with an eye toward ramping up her preparations closer to the U.S. Trials.
“This year I played it smart and didn’t compete as much,” she said. “I trained through the NCAAs to where I’m peaking just now. I’m starting to get into my rhythm now.
“I’m going in not as star struck,” she said. “As a freshman, I was going against a lot of professionals; they were my idols. Now I feel like I’m a part of them, not a baby. I definitely feel more experienced, like I know what’s going on.”
Now the 23-year-old Leleux, known as “Showtime” to her hometown friends, is prepared to take the next logical step in a decorated career.
Leleux was a five-time state champion at Catholic-New Iberia, where she became only the seventh American to clear 14 feet during her junior year. She’s a five-time national junior champion and Pan American Games winner.
Moreover, for the first time in competition, Leleux cleared 15 feet (15-1) during an independent meet on July 2, further adding to her solid credentials in the spring where she jumped 14-9½ and 14-10 (fourth best nationally), respectively.
Leleux arrived Tuesday evening to get acclimated to the climate and two-hour time difference. She also reacquainted herself with Hayward Field’s runaways in preparation for the build up to Friday’s qualifying.
“The U.S. Trials are almost harder than the Olympics,” Leleux said. “You make the team, you’re ready to be on that stage and compete for a medal.”
It would be a great start to a professional career and a great ending to a college career.”