Balancing act

Morgan Leichtenberger is a busy girl.

She always has been, but she’s especially busy as a freshman Kinesiology major at Penn State University’s main campus.

She wouldn’t have it any other way.

Take her senior year of high school, for example, when Leichtenberger was involved in five sports.

She was a member of Sheffield High School’s varsity volleyball team in the fall, basketball team in the winter, and track and field team and trapshooting club in the spring, as well as a year-round gymnast at the Warren County YMCA.

“I was one of the little kids that tried everything,” said Leichtenberger, who has been involved in gymnastics since she was six or seven years old.

“My cousin Cayla was on the (YMCA gymnastics) team before I was,” she said.

“I played tee ball, soccer, was involved in dance at Linda Dies’,” she said. “Once I hit high school, and I found out I couldn’t do track and softball at the same time, I had to make a decision.”

Leichtenberger “just loves being busy, going from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day.”

“Being involved in so much, it kept me up with my school work,” she added.

For Morgan, it’s all about grooming her organization skills, and has really helped her stay organized at college.

“Being at a smaller (high) school, I got to be involved in a lot,” she said.

That wasn’t just in sports, as mentioned.

There were so many school clubs and extracurriculars, “I had to add lines on my college application letters.”

Leichtenberger very seriously considered going to a smaller college like Lock Haven to join the track and field team, but when she got accepted to Penn State, her mom, Amy, said, “You can’t say no to Penn State,” according to Morgan.

“I’ve honestly wanted to go here since the fifth grade,” said Morgan, “and I didn’t even know what college was at that point. My goal then was to go to Penn State and do gymnastics.”

Not knowing if Penn State even had gymnastics.

It does.

If you know Morgan, you knew she looked that up almost immediately upon becoming accepted; in fact, she looked up information on both club sports, gymnastics and track and field.

Her body couldn’t handle both, she said. Not after 11 years of gymnastics (injuries), and all the other activities.

But she can handle one.

“I was set on doing track in college,” she said. “I didn’t think my body could take (gymnastics) anymore.”

But, in her heart, it was always gymnastics.

She graduated from Sheffield in June and started college in July; that included club gymnastics over the summer.

“It’s definitely different from the YMCA,” she said. “We have private gyms (and a lot more time to practice).

“You have the option to do whatever events you want,” she said. “But, as strong-willed as I am, I couldn’t say that I’m only going to do one when I have the capability to do all four. I would feel like I’m slacking.”

Another difference, worth noting: Her mother got her involved in gymnastics (though she jokingly claims her athleticism is from her dad, Jeff). But her mom had never missed one of her meets, until the first club meet at Syracuse University this past fall.

“It was my brother’s last (high school) football game, so my mom stayed and watched him play football, and my dad and boyfriend came to watch me compete.”

It was actually good for Morgan, she claims.

A realization that “I have to do it on my own now,” she said.

It’s a little slice of home, the sport, as her aunt and cousin, Cayla, visited during her home gymnastics meet two weeks ago.

She’s adjusting to college life, and the college club sport.

“I, personally, have the same amount of pressure on myself, but I probably shouldn’t because it’s more laid back (in the college club sport),” she said. “Everybody’s told me I need to relax a little more.”

Her team is her comfort zone.

“My best friends here at college are on the gymnastics team,” she said. “We all go to practice together, do our homework together, get dinner together, then go study together; it’s helped a lot.”

She still can’t convince anyone where Sheffield is on the map, but she won’t forget the influence it’s had.

“I really liked growing up in a small town,” said Leichtenberger. “But I’m getting used to not being in Warren anymore. I’m holding back and trying not to get involved in anything else. I’m giving myself limits and doing what I can.”

Her body is responding better than ever, going from four or five sports to one has helped, she admits.

Five practices a week are still difficult, but in a good way she can’t give up.

“I’m really proud of myself,” she said. “I honestly didn’t think I could keep doing it.”

And thankful.

She said her parents were always the one that motivated her, and supported her… from this sport to that.

And Kinesiology?

Morgan’s had her share of injuries.

Darby Harrington of Hertel and Brown Physical Therapy, here in Warren, “is actually a big influence on me coming here and majoring in it,” said Leichtenberger. “She did her undergrad here, too. I also want to specialize and work with athletes.”

She won’t slow down, that’s for sure.

That includes gymnastics.

“It’s probably going to come down to what my body says,” she said, “even though I probably won’t listen.”