Athlete Spotlight: Sierra DeLeon

This week’s Athlete Spotlight is brought to you by Collegian writer Sarah Kahwash ’14. 

Class: 2014
Team: Ladies volleyball and track & field
Hometown: Largo, Maryland
Major: Sociology 
Extracurriculars: Wiggin Street Elementary
Volunteer, Black Student Union,
REACH mentor

Q: How did you decide to play sports here?

Well, I knew that I wanted to play sports in college. If not varsity, then club. I kind of threw out an email to the Kenyon coaches saying, “By the way, if I come I might want to play. Look up my times.” As for volleyball, I sent an email but didn’t end up sending a video so technically I was a walk-on.

I actually started track my junior year of high school. At first, I was really defiant, like “It doesn’t look fun!” I think my dad secretly wanted me to run, though. I played softball and the ball would rarely make it to the outfield so I got bored with it, and I’m pretty lacrosse-inept, so track it was.

I started volleyball in seventh grade and got really close with my coach. She makes fun of me now because I actually started on the B-team; she always uses me as an underdog story: “Yeah, you don’t want to be on the B-team, but look what happened to Sierra!” I was even mad that my parents wouldn’t let me play club, but if I did then track wouldn’t have happened. At first, volleyball looked like such a girly sport to me with the bows and the hair, but my school made it look so legit.

Full interview after the jump.

Courtesy of Sierra DeLeon.

Q: What events do you race and what does your practice schedule look like?

I’m a sprinter up to 400 meters and a hurdler. Last year I did high jump, but I stopped this year because my back’s pretty messed up. We practice for about two to three hours every day. Tuesdays we’re nice and late starting at 8:00 p.m., which is fun. Makes me feel kind of badass walking into the KAC at night, but then I walk out and it’s 11:00 p.m. and I’m like, “Oh wait.”

But we practice every day of the week. Saturdays we have meets and Sundays we have off.

Q: How do you manage your time between sports and academics?

The fact that I know I have practice or a meet makes me know that I have to complete my work by x amount of time or else it won’t get done, so I guess I’m more disciplined with that kind of stuff. But sometimes it gets to be a lot; for instance, this weekend I have a meet and a research project. I’ll get it done, but it’s going to be cut close. Our team is full of a lot of academically disciplined people. At meets you see people with books out, even see people heating before meets while reading. So the team inspires me because I’m totally the kind of person to be like, “I’ll do it a little later.”

Q: How is the track team doing so far?

Our girls’ team just recently got eighth out of 20-something at the Ohio meet, which is a big deal because we’re a small team. The guys are looking pretty good as well, but of course there are still people dealing with injuries — like me, of course — and people going abroad. But we’re still looking really good; we got off to a really fast start. First or second meet, one of the girls [Kirkley Doyle ’13] broke the 800-meter record that was set years ago.

Q: Are you going abroad?

I just got approved by Kenyon. The plan is to go to Brazil, but we’ll see how that works out.

Q: What’s the best sports moment you’ve had at Kenyon?

Okay — best and worst moment was during freshman year indoor conferences. I’d run a 200 m, 100 m hurdles, 50 m hurdles, 50 m dash, I’d high jumped, and I ran a 4 x 200. Then one of my teammates who was scheduled to run the 4 x 4 got sick. So after I finished my last event, I was really happy to be done — tired, of course, after preliminaries the day before. My coach didn’t tell me my teammate was sick until after my race — and me, thinking that was completely unbelievable, I laughed and said, “I’m going to go ice.” Then I realized he was for real and I felt like I was about to have an anxiety attack. It would be my sixth event in one day. After the hysteria and the denial, and (laughs) the absolute disbelief, I ran the 400 — my first 400 in college. We ended up setting the 4 x4 record for the year. It was really stressful but after it was all done and after the severe pain in my muscles subsided I was like, “It’s cool. I survived. Thank God!” It was really satisfying to prove that I could do it. That was the best and worst moment of the year — horrible but triumphant.

Q: I’m sure you get this all the time, but what’s the story behind the name?

Oh, okay, my parents say there is no story.

Q: What?!

Yeah, I was actually going to be named Simone but my cousin had that name. Then Alexandra, but my brother’s name is Alex. Then they were like, “Sierra’s nice.” Then it was kind of a bonus that it sounds like Sierra Leone. I always ask them, “Really? The country came first.” My dad’s pretty pleased with their (his and my mom’s) creativity, though, seeing as how I’m number four.

Q: How many siblings do you have?

[I have] five brothers — three older and two younger. The youngest one is 13 now, and the oldest one is 30 or something. I’m so bad at keeping track of their ages. After 25, I’m like, “Well, you’re old now.”

Q: Are you going to watch your events in this summer’s Olympics?

Of course! Obviously, I’m fascinated by Usain Bolt. He’s so tall and far from the ground; why is he such a fast sprinter? I enjoy watching people run sometimes more than I enjoy running; they look so focused and everything and when I watch I’m like, “I want to do that.” In fact, in high school there was always a big musical on the same weekend as Penn relays, and none of my friends wanted to go, so I didn’t either. Then my teammates came back and said, “We saw Usain Bolt!” I was so jealous.

Q: Do you ever feel silly wearing spandex all the time?

In high school volleyball we didn’t wear spandex so it took some getting used to. Sometimes it seems silly, though, like when it’s 40 degrees outside and you’re like, “Is this really practical?” My coach got mad at me because I ran in a sweatshirt once when it was cold. I don’t wear spandex all the time in practice, but it helps a lot with hurdles. When you’re in a place where everyone’s doing it—

Q: Like drugs.

(Laughs.) No! You know, they’re really comfortable, so it’s okay. But it is funny that both sports I do involve tiny clothing. Obviously, it’s my thing.

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