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Interval Session #96 - Morgann LeLeux

By SteveU - February 5, 2009

If you’re able to lead the country in an event that is just considered your “hobby,” you must be a special athlete.  But for Morgann LeLeux, it’s true.  Track fans may think of the New Iberia Catholic soph as a pole vaulter, but she and her/coach dad would be quick to tell you that that she’s a gymnast who vaults for fun once in a while.  Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the attributes developed in gymnastics benefit a vaulter and that in the spring and summer, LeLeux can focus enough time on her growing passion that she can get her timing down enough to start approaching her tremendous potential.

So far, so good.  LeLeux set and re-set the freshman national record last year, finally settling on 13-02.  At Nike Outdoor, she improved on her fifth from Nike Indoor by finishing 3rd at 12-11.  She’ll have the soph and junior records of Shade Weygandt TX to chase the next two years, as well Shade and the national record itself.  In the midst of her gymnastic season, she found time to vault at LSU January 10, where she improved her PR by half an inch.  In a rare few minutes she's not in the gym or studying, she talks about her busy athletic life with DyeStat senior editor SteveU.

Vaulting at NON outdoor. Photo Vic Sailer, photorun.net
1)  Morgann, congrats on the early-season 13-02.50 you popped last month.  I’ve learned that jumping that high was a bit of a surprise for you given your limited preparation for the meet.  Can you elaborate and talk us through the competition through your eyes?

Well, I started off warming up being very tired and in a really bad mood.  There were so many girls trying to warm up that there wasn't enough time for me to get a good warm-up.  I didn't get the jumps in that I needed to get in.  So I went to sit down to relax, chill out, and take my vitamins, sport beans, and Advil.  I started to calm down and get in my focus zone. 

Once I started competing I felt all better.  When I got to 13' 2-1/2", I missed the first and second attempts.  Being a little nervous, my dad and other coaches told me to stop freaking out and just make it.  They got the whole crowd in on a thunder clap and I made it.  It was like the rush I got in the 8th grade when I jumped 12'.  I wasn't as nervous moving on to 13'-7".  I moved up on a pole and I had a hard time on the first and second jumps.  I moved down on a pole for my 3rd jump, got the crowd involved and almost made the jump.  I was so close and I wasn't even that upset.  I realized that I needed more work on my bigger pole.  But it was still an awesome feeling to jump that high!
2)  We haven’t seen you on the indoor circuit much since then … but apparently there are some other athletic endeavors that are pretty important to you, too – which a lot of our track fans might not know about!  Please tell us about the other passion of yours that takes up a lot of your training and competition time during the winter!

Gymnastics!  My gymnastics practices are insane!  I practice non-stop from 4:30 - 8:30 Monday through Friday, and 10:00 - 1:00 on Saturday.  I try so hard to get in all four events: Bars, Beam, Floor, and Vault.  I love it to death, but it is very hard to keep up.  Being as old, tall (5’7”), and big as I am makes it harder and takes a lot more work to keep up.  Plus being in Level 10 is a killer.  But when I do compete and win, it pays off and is all worth it.

3)  Did it give you a lot of confidence to be able to vault 13-02.50 on such limited sport-specific training?  What does that tell you about your overall development as an athlete?  How will you make the transition from your gymnastics season to the heart of your track season coming up?

  Vaulting for New Iberia. Photo Shane LeLeux
Yes it did, especially when I didn't get to train like I wanted to.  My gymnastics training helps me with my pole vault training.  Polevaulting is almost like another event in gymnastics.  I will train in gymnastics as I always do, and focus on gymnastics when I have a gymnastics competition, and I'll try to squeeze in some pole vault practice when I have a pole vault competition coming up.  I try to practice for pole vault on Sundays or during holidays.

4)  I’ve discovered there’s a long family history in vaulting and gymnastics, starting with your parents, and their deciding to start a training facility and so on.  Can you give us kind of a cliff notes version of you and your family’s growth and development in the two sports?

My dad was a college vaulter and my mom was a college dancer.  When BASS gymnastics was giving up gymnastics, my parents didn't want to trash my dreams so they made them bigger and better.  We now have a new gymnastics facility and an indoor and outdoor pole vault facility.  It's all I can ask for!

5)  I understand that you and your dad/coach have kind of a long-term approach to how much longer you expect to compete hard at gymnastics, at least in all of the events, and then what your future may hold further on in the gymnastics vaulting event and the pole vault in track.  Can you talk about this plan?

My ultimate goal is to compete in both sports in the Olympics, or at least make it to the Olympics in the pole vault and at least one event of gymnastics (maybe the bars).  My next goal is to try and do both in college, if I can find a college that will allow me to do that.  But if I can't, it's okay and I'll make that decision when it is time.  Once I am done with college, I would really like to sign with a sponsor and compete pro.
6)  Your dad/coach mentioned that you work with coaching a lot of the younger gymnasts and vaulters who train in the facility.  Is that something you really have a passion for and, if so, do you see coaching as something you might want to do professionally some day?

Yes, definitely after all my dreams are done and I settle down, I would love to come home and help out at our gym and one day take it over.

7)  I’ve also heard that you have some pretty athletic siblings.  Tell us about them and what kind of aptitude they’re showing in gymnastics and pole vaulting.  Also, you know, a lot the athletes we’ve talked with have spoken of both the good things and the challenging things about having a parent as a coach – and you have two sports to work with, though they’re obviously very intertwined.  Please share your thoughts on how that has been for you, too.

   Competing at gymastics.  Photo Shane LeLeux
My middle sister, Kristynn, is fun and crazy.  She pole vaults well and does gymnastics for fun, but she kicks butt in soccer and is an amazing cheerleader.  My littlest sister, Reagann, is crazy and tough.  I am a little worried that she will pass me up before I see it coming (ha ha).  She pole vaulted at the Reno Summit this year at 9 years old!  I didn't even do that.

When I first started pole vaulting, I used to hate my dad being my coach.  But now that I am all into the pole vault sport, I love having my dad as my coach.  Of course, he can aggravate me, but I love how we have that bond.  Now my gymnastics coach hates that I do pole vaulting.  He gives me a very hard time.  But I know that all gymnastics coaches feel that way.  They believe that you are supposed to be only dedicated to gymnastics.  But I love gymnastics and pole vaulting too much to choose one over the other right now.

8)  The last few years you competed with one of the great prep vaulters of this era in your home state in Rachel Laurent.  Is she someone who is a friend of hers and that you’ve learned from or been inspired by?  Also, it seems like the vault scene, especially for girls, is really strong, even with someone like Rachel graduating.  For a small state, there’s a lot of girls close to or above 12 feet.  What do you think are the biggest factors in making Louisiana such a great state for girls vaulting?

Rachel is one that I look up to and is one of my role models.  We weren't real close with me being so young, but she has helped me at meets. 

It seems like the coaches and vaulters in Louisiana all work together to help each other.  At our gym, we have about 25 vaulters from all different schools all throughout the state.  And when we go to a meet, we all help each other by catching each other's steps, supporting and cheering each other, and just being there for each other.  I don't know if that is the sport of pole vaulting or if that is just our Louisiana vaulters.  My dad and Mr. Doug Fraley held a Thanksgiving pole vault clinic with Coach Lon Badeaux, Coach Greg Duplantis, and Coach Kevin Trosclair in hopes of making Louisiana the state to beat.

9)  Being a sophomore now and with several jumps over 13 feet now, what kind of goals do you have for indoor and outdoor this year, both in terms of marks and placings?

My goal for indoors is to jump 13'-10" and for outdoors it is 14'-2".

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