News & Stories

December 16, 2020

A True Champion

Genesis Leggett (20C)

 

By Karilon Rogers

 

Her final weight-throw practice complete for the March 13 NCAA Division III Indoor Track and Field National Championships, Berry senior Genesis Leggett did her best to relax in her Winston-Salem, N.C., hotel room.

It had been a nerve-wracking day for all the competitors. First, they learned that their parents could not attend the championships the next day due to the growing COVID-19 crisis, then that only their head coach would be allowed in the arena. Late in the afternoon, Leggett saw the worst news on Twitter: The NCAA had canceled all sports for the remainder of the spring.

“Surely that means after this competition,” she thought with characteristic optimism. “After all, we’re already here; we’re ready to go.”

When she got a phone call from head coach Luke Syverson a few minutes later, her optimism faded. “He asked me to meet him in the lobby,” she recalled. “When I got the official word that our meet was canceled, I bawled my eyes out. It was not only the end of this championship, but it was the end of everything. There were no more practices. No more team. It was all over. It was really over.” 


Handling it like a champ
Processing the disappointment was admittedly hard despite the extensive support she received – and greatly appreciated – from Berry teammates, coaches, professors and administrators. Her reasons ran deep, starting with a knee injury as a sophomore that didn’t keep her from qualifying for nationals that year, but did require surgery after the competition was over.

“Qualifying for nationals that year as a sophomore fast-tracked my goals,” she explained. “I had it set in my mind that I was going to eventually qualify in indoor and outdoor and then possibly medal as a senior.”

Because she spent her junior year working her way back into top form, her senior year became her “redemption year.” She was determined to both get back to nationals and to stand on the podium.

“Seeing as this was my last chance at bringing a national championship medal back to Berry, I was crushed,” she admitted. “Everything I had endured seemed, at first, to have been wasted. However, once the tears dried, I was able to realize that the situation was bigger than myself and that simply having the opportunity to compete and achieve what I had in the last four years makes me a champion.”

With this mindset, she regained a measure of optimism, even as the pandemic prevented her from finishing her last semester on campus and walking the commencement stage in May.

At home with her mom in Live Oak, Fla., she determined to keep busy over the summer by helping her grandmother and great-aunt, who live in a community for seniors. She shopped for them and kept their homes sanitized and virus-free.

“Grandma started referring me to her friends, and Grandma has a lot of friends!” Leggett laughed. “Before long I was cleaning and shopping for about 15 of her friends regularly. I tried to take orders and shop in bulk. Many of them don’t have family nearby, so it felt good knowing that I have been able to help during these crazy times.”

 

"...my first job at Berry was in sports information, and I discovered that there are so many different types of jobs in the sports industry. Berry opened my eyes to the many opportunities within sports administration.”


— Genesis Leggett

 



Optimism meets opportunity
While in high school, Leggett was recruited by many schools interested in adding her to their track and field rosters. She checked out multiple Division III institutions before finding the right fit at Berry.

“I had to leave Florida,” she stated. “My mother wanted me to get experience somewhere else. We went on a long road trip together and visited 10 colleges. When we got to Berry, that was it for me.”

A dual sports administration and communication major, Leggett showcased her leadership abilities as president of Berry’s Black Student Association and as a member of the Student Life Council and the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. She also shined through her extensive student work experience as a Gate of Opportunity Scholar in the areas of sports administration and information, including service as student director of sports information. For her, the work was literally eye opening.

“Going into college, I knew I wanted to work in sports and had my mind set on earning a journalism degree so I could go into sports broadcasting, which led me to communication,” she said. “But my first job at Berry was in sports information, and I discovered that there are so many different types of jobs in the sports industry. Berry opened my eyes to the many opportunities within sports administration.”

Leggett is well on that career path now, having entered the sports management program at Florida State University. She looks forward to working in FSU’s athletic department.

Genesis Leggett’s Final Season 


USTFCC Coaches Association Indoor All-Americanimage_genesis2.jpg
USTFCC Coaches Association NCAA DIII Outdoor All-Region
USTFCC Coaches Association NCAA DIII Indoor All-Region
SAA Women’s Field Athlete of the Year
SAA All-Conference First Team (shot put and hammer)
SAA Athletic Honor Roll


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