In her years as a track athlete, Havelock’s Leah DeBerry has won more than a few races. But perhaps no run was as sweet as the one she took when she found out she had been invited to participate in a prestigious track event in Australia.
"I was so happy. I ran down the school hallway," she said.
DeBerry received an invitation to compete in track at the 2013 Down Under Sports event this upcoming summer in Australia. Started in 1989, the event features competition in football, basketball, volleyball, cross country, wrestling and track, and offers the chance for standout athletes from the United States to go to Australia for a week of competition while learning about Australian culture through tours and other events.
DeBerry finished seventh last year in the state 3A championships in the 400-meter run, but the junior’s versatility is a strength. She has competed in everything from 100-meter sprints to mile runs.
"She’s really an all-around athlete," said Mike Rowlend, DeBerry’s club coach. "She’s a strong sprinter, but she’s also good in distance."
DeBerry, who placed fourth in the eastern regionals in the 400, was also a member of the Havelock High 800 relay team that placed 12th in the state last year, and the 3,200 relay team that placed 13th in the state last year, which shows her versatility.
"I don’t like being called a sprinter or a distance runner," she said. "I just like people to know that I can run. It doesn’t matter what race."
She said her focus will likely be on the 400 this upcoming season. Her best time is 58.2 seconds, and her goal is to get down to 56.0. In the 800, she’s looking to get from 2 minutes and 24 seconds to 2:20.
"I’m a couple of seconds off that, but I feel with the right diet and right exercise, I feel I can achieve those," she said.
DeBerry admits she hasn’t always had the best diet.
"I’ve got to train harder and focus on my diet," she said. "I don’t have the healthiest eating. My diet the past couple of years has consisted of cheeseburgers and hamburgers, and anything with fat and sodium in it. I’m going to try to narrow it down this year."
For now, DeBerry is starting to get ready for the Havelock High indoor track season. From there, she’ll roll into the high school outdoor season and then focus on her club season this summer.
"I’m just doing some light training, some running," she said of her preparations for the season. "I’m going to start weight training soon. I’m just working on my endurance for the 400."
Beyond Australia, DeBerry has other lofty goals as well.
"I’m going to try for a college scholarship, hopefully to ECU," she said.
The family is looking to raise money to help DeBerry get to Australia for the summer. Anyone wishing to help out can email firstname.lastname@example.org.