Brendan Leneghan almost went a school year without winning a state championship.
On Saturday, he rectified that.
Leneghan is a senior at St. Joe’s Prep High School and during his first three years as a Hawk, he played for the football team, which won back-to-back-to-back Catholic League and state championships.
But heading into his senior year, the wide receiver and defensive back who was one of the best long snappers in the state decided he was going to focus on his other sport.
“I think quitting football helped me focus more on track, and let me spend more time on it,” said Leneghan, who lives in Mayfair. “It was hard to stop playing football, but coach (Tim Roken) helped me through it. He wanted me to stay, but he understood where I was coming from and wanted what’s best for me.
“It’s hard because football starts early at Prep. It would have interfered with the end of track season (last year) and I really wanted to make sure I was ready (for track). It was hard, but I had to do it.”
It’s safe to say Leneghan made the right call.
On Saturday, he had to jump to the highest spot on the podium because he was best in the state in the long jump.
Leneghan took first place in the PIAA AAA long jump with a jump of 22-8.75, earning his first gold medal at the event. This was about 24 hours after he placed fifth in the triple jump at Shippensburg University by jumping 46-0.5.
“It felt really good, it was on my final jump, when I hit the board, it felt real nice when I landed,” Leneghan said. “The gold medal is really shiny. It means a lot, it means more than the football championships.
“Track is an individual sport, but it wasn’t really. I became so close with my teammates and my coach. We had other Prep guys up here, they did well, but sadly nobody else won a gold medal. But they did real good. I had a lot of help to get here.”
He did, but he also put in a lot of work on his own. All in all, it was a pretty successful weekend for Leneghan, who hasn’t had the easiest go of it this year when it comes to getting in work.
“It’s hard to do track at Prep because we don’t have a pit, so when I wanted to practice jumping, I would have to pull out pads and I would just run and jump onto it,” said Leneghan, who missed his personal record by about a foot from last year’s Catholic League championships. “I wouldn’t jump too many times, maybe five to eight times a practice. I would try to get good reps in, get good form.
“I would still go to practice. I didn’t do much running this year, I did sprints my freshman and sophomore year, but lately I’ve been more focused on jumping. Last year and this year it became all jumping. It helped, probably. Since I could focus more on the form, it let me do better in the jumps.”
He excelled during the winter season, and while he medaled, it wasn’t a first-place finish.
This was the perfect way to end his athletic career at Prep.
“Prep has been great, I’ve really liked it,” said Leneghan, who has finished the school year. “This was the best year in sports for me. My average mostly this year I was consistently 21 feet, but at the end, I was more consistent 22 and 23. To do it at states is pretty cool.”
Leneghan was happy about walking away with the medals, but they didn’t stay on his neck long. After he took a picture with them, he let his mom try it on for a photo opportunity. Then he gave it to dad to keep.
“He likes it, he loves wearing it,” Leneghan said. “I love it, my mom and dad got me everywhere I had to go.”
Family is very important to Leneghan, and his parents have a lot to be proud of.
Older brother Anthony is a defensive lineman playing football at Amherst.
His sister Bridget was a celebrated cheerleader at St. Hubert who is now a student at Penn State.
Younger sister Jenni is a cheerleader now for the Bambies.
But the love goes beyond the immediate family.
Leneghan credits his Uncle Kevin for driving him to meets and his other uncle Brian Graham for supplying the much-needed chocolate doughnuts to help him reach new heights with his jumps.
He also credits Prep track coach Curt Cockenberg for his guidance.
“This means a lot I think mainly I was so close with my coach in track, he was always helping me, it was an individual event, but I still had coach with me,” Leneghan said. “Coach Cockenberg has really helped me, he helped me get better.”
This also might be the final hurdle for Leneghan to clear when it comes to track.
He’s hoping to join the steamfitters union.
“I didn’t like school that much, and I think that’s a great career,” Leneghan said. “It’s good money and I have a friend who does it and he says it’s a great job. I’m looking forward to it.”