Moffat County graduate to swim at national college championships | CraigDailyPress.com

Moffat County graduate to swim at national college championships

Eryn Leonard ready to compete for Colorado Mesa University in fly races

Grand Junction — She’s been a Shark, a Bulldog and a Maverick in the water, but Eryn Leonard is striving for a different title now: All-American. — She's been a Shark, a Bulldog and a Maverick in the water, but Eryn Leonard is striving for a different title now: All-American.

— She's been a Shark, a Bulldog and a Maverick in the water, but Eryn Leonard is striving for a different title now: All-American.

The Moffat County High SchoolMoffat County High School graduate will compete at the graduate will compete at the NCAA Division II National Championships March 9 to 12 in Indianapolis, IndianaNCAA Division II National Championships March 9 to 12 in Indianapolis, Indiana, on behalf of the Colorado Mesa University swimming and diving team., on behalf of the Colorado Mesa University swimming and diving team.

Moffat County High School graduate will compete at the NCAA Division II National Championships March 9 to 12 in Indianapolis, Indiana, on behalf of the Colorado Mesa University swimming and diving team.

The group of 12 CMU athletes12 CMU athletes headed for nationals is the most the aquatics program has sent to that level, and Leonard qualified in both the 100- and 200-yard butterfly races, also qualifying for the 100 freestyle as a B-cut. headed for nationals is the most the aquatics program has sent to that level, and Leonard qualified in both the 100- and 200-yard butterfly races, also qualifying for the 100 freestyle as a B-cut.

12 CMU athletes headed for nationals is the most the aquatics program has sent to that level, and Leonard qualified in both the 100- and 200-yard butterfly races, also qualifying for the 100 freestyle as a B-cut.

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Leonard holds the records among Mesa's women swimmers in both fly events at 55.70 seconds and 2:03.99, respectively. She also contributed to the 400 and 800 freestyle relays and 200 and 400 medley relay records at CMU.

Even with this success, the student-athlete, a junior and exercise science major at Colorado Mesa, is a little intimidated about taking on an event of such a big scope.

"It's a little stressful," she said. "I'm pretty confident in the fact that I'll have my team there to help me, and it'll be fun to watch all them."

A 2013 alumnus of Moffat County2013 alumnus of Moffat County, Leonard was a standout among youth program , Leonard was a standout among youth program Craig Sea SharksCraig Sea Sharks and qualified for state championships all four years through MCHS also excelling in track and cross country. Upon getting to college, she’s focused entirely on the water year-round, though she still runs for conditioning purposes. and qualified for state championships all four years through MCHS also excelling in track and cross country. Upon getting to college, she's focused entirely on the water year-round, though she still runs for conditioning purposes.

2013 alumnus of Moffat County, Leonard was a standout among youth program Craig Sea Sharks and qualified for state championships all four years through MCHS also excelling in track and cross country. Upon getting to college, she's focused entirely on the water year-round, though she still runs for conditioning purposes.

While some athletes may struggle to balance sports with their education, it's swimming that helps Leonard keep her schedule running smoothly.

"It's so much easier to keep organized because you don't have time to procrastinate homework," she said. "Once off-season comes is when it gets harder."

The adjustment to swimming after high school was a tough one at first, as she was no longer a big fish in a small pond.

"Coming in as a freshman, you aren't this big hotshot, everyone has to work hard to get on those relays," she said. "At first, I came in here and I thought I would get to nationals right away and I realized it was a lot harder than I thought it would be. Now that I'm going, it's nice to be competing with all these upper-end swimmers and be a part of it."

The huge race at hand is what's at the forefront of her mind, but a lingering thought is the possibility of going even further, namely to the international level, though she has yet to swim in an Olympic-sized pool in an official capacity.

"My times are right there, but I've never been able to compare," she said. "My 200 fly is really close."

Her coach, Ron Allen, said he expects Leonard would be able to make it to the Olympic trials, possibly advancing if she continues to improve.

"She's someone who leads by example really well," he said. "That's what got her to nationals was dedication and hard work."

Going against some of the greatest competitors she's seen in her life next week, Leonard would of course like to take the gold, but her personal objective is to place in the top eight.

"If you get in the top eight, you get All-American, and it's a really cool name to get," she said. "Even top 16, you get All-American honorable mention."

Whatever comes next, she wants to thank her family, current coach Allen and former coach Meghan Francone, MCHS teacher John Bolton and all those at CMU who have helped her along the way.

"They provided this opportunity for me," she said.

Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @CDP_Sports.Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @CDP_Sports.