Leah Wis admitted she just needed some quiet time.
Competing in the NJSIAA, Group 3 championship track meet last weekend in South Plainfield, the 15-year-old freshman from Montville High School had already accomplished what few athletes her age have done. After all, just getting to the group championship meet meant she had to finish in the top six in the state sectionals a week earlier.
Wis not only qualified in one event, she made it to the groups in four events, the discus throw, high jump, triple jump and long jump.
But there she was, in the discus circle, with one throw left and sitting in sixth place overall. Having already appeared to qualify for the most prestigious meet in New Jersey, the Meet of Champions on June 5 in the discus, Wis was trying to focus on her final throw.
“I have a few coaches, and they’re all trying to help me,” Wis said. “But, at that point, I just needed a few minutes to myself. I knew what I was capable of doing. I had been working a long time to get here. I just wanted to throw.”
Leah’s dad, Robert, could also tell his only daughter was ready.
“Her body language was pretty much saying ‘just leave me alone,'” Bob Wis recalled. “I felt pretty confident she’d do something special on that last throw.”
Wis wound up and threw the discus better than she ever had before, hurling the sphere 126’5″, a good foot further than the second place finisher.
“When I let it go, it felt good, but I really didn’t know,” Wis recalled. “But after the throw, I’m walking, really fast, toward the scorer and when I heard 126 feet, I just went crazy. I was so happy. It was even better when I realized it took a PR (personal record) throw for me to win it.”
It’s not often a freshman can win a group championship in track and field, but Wis wasn’t overly surprised.
“I’m honored, believe me,” Wis said. “But I also think I’ve worked pretty hard for this. I’ve been competing for a while and have done well. I do realize what a big step this is.”
Wis also qualified for the Meet of Champions by tying for first place in the high jump, clearing 5’2″, despite a chronically sore knee.
“I’m not sure how it will work at the Meet of Champions, because the discus and high jump could be at around the same time,” Wis said. “I’m hoping to do both, but if the timing isn’t right, then I might have to skip the high jump. Obviously, I’d like to do both.”
Wis’ athletic abilities have been evident for a while. Six years ago, she was profiled in Sports Illustrated as ‘A Face in the Crowd’ for track and field. In 2009, she was named athlete of the month by Sports Illustrated for Kids.
She got involved with track at the age of 5 and competed in Junior Olympics four years later. By 2011, as a seventh grader, she had thrown the discus 85’6″ and high jumped 4’10”.
Now, she’s a state champion as a freshman and gearing for an appearance at the Meet of Champions.
“I can’t wait,” Wis said. “I want to break 5’2″ in the high jump and do a good job in the discus.”
Wis’ throw in the group championships puts her in good stead with the other group champions. Jess Woodard of Cherokee had an incredible day, throwing 168′, breaking the old mark by nearly seven feet. But other than that, the other champions were somewhat all in the same distance area.