Walsingham senior Leyjah Hamrick announced this week that she will be committing to continue her track & field career at James Madison University next year.
Leyjah was a three-year standout for the Trojans and was looking forward to an incredible senior season, hopefully ending with a sixth consecutive VISAA Division II state championship for the Trojans. However, not only did her senior season not go as hoped, it never even got to happen, as the COVID-19 pandemic closed schools before her first meet of the season.
With her season coming to an abrupt end, Leyjah says that not getting to run her senior season has affected her more on a personal level than it did on a recruiting level.
"It didn't bother me too much when I realized I most likely was not going to get recruited, I was more worried I did not get a last season with my second family," Leyjah said. "Having my senior season was extremely important to me because I wanted to continue to break records with my team."
Despite not being able to break any records this year, she will still graduate while holding plenty of them. Leyjah currently holds the school record in the 100m, 200m, 400m, 4x100 relay, 4x400 relay, and the sprint medley relay. She was the 2019 VISAA DII Most Valuable Runner and the 2019 TCIS Championship Meet MVP.
Coach Anthony Green calls Leyjah "...by far the greatest sprinter in the history of Walsingham Academy and one of the finest in the state."
Leyjah says she chose JMU because of their academic programs and because of the track team.
"I knew that they had great political programs that would help me achieve my goal when it comes to my future job, but now I'm even more excited because the coach is so wonderful and I know she will help me feel right at home," Leyjah said.
She first started considering James Madison last year, thinking about all the opportunities she would have with her academics, club gymnastics, and having a great college experience. She already had a bunch of friends there so that was a huge plus. Leyjah also considered VMI and other schools but ultimately decided that JMU was too good to pass up.
"The school is such a happy place and I knew that's where I needed to be."
With all her success over the last four years, Leyjah believes Walsingham Academy is a huge part of why she was able to reach this personal achievement.
"Walsingham definitely blessed me with a great education to get into JMU in the first place," she said. "Walsingham has also helped me get exactly where I wanted to be athletically and to run in college. The fact that it is a Division I college makes it that much better!"
Leyjah recalls her favorite memory from her career at Walsingham, a day she calls "one of the best days ever." She remembers running down the home stretch of the 400-meter race and hearing all of her teammates screaming like crazy. This wasn't necessarily out of the ordinary, but it was louder than usual on this particular day. As she came across the finish line she remembers her Fitbit buzzing to let her know she had reached her 8,000-step mark for the day. But her teammate Clare Kinney '19 quickly came running up to her to let her know that her step goal wasn't the biggest achievement she had reached. Clare gave her "the biggest bear hug ever" and said, "You just ran 58 seconds! You beat the record!" Leyjah was shocked and didn't believe her at first, but decided she had to go text Kiely Curran '18, the previous record holder. But before she could send the text she was interrupted by none other than Kiely herself, who had come back from Clemson University and witnessed the record setting feat. Leyjah says "that day was just crazy all around but it was so amazing."
As she looks back on her incredible career at Walsingham, Leyjah knows she would not be reaching her goal of running in college without the incredible dedication of her coaches.
"I would like to thank Mr. Green and Coach Higgins for everything. My first year of track was a bit bumpy but they stuck by my side and made sure that I had people in my corner. Without Mr. Green, I would not be the runner that I am and I wouldn't know the true meaning of teamwork. Without Coach Higgins, I would not have this opportunity to run at JMU and I will be forever grateful to both of them."