Shippensburg University track and field runner Leah Graybill has already left a legacy here at SU – yet her collegiate career is just taking off.
Graybill’s freshman campaign was nothing short of historic. The Lititz, Pennsylvania, native smashed two school records in the 60 and 200-meters and on the way received the prestigious honor of 2020 Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) Women’s Indoor Track & Field Freshman of the Year. She was the fourth Raider overall to earn the nod and the first in the last seven years – previously awarded to Megan Lundy (2013).
But the accolades kept pouring in. She piled on 2020 U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) All-Academic Team honors. And to round things out, she was a three-time PSAC place winner, added two All-PSAC honors and one USTFCCCA All-Region honor to her growing resume.
In lieu of all the feats, Graybill credits the people around her for her continued success. Graybill’s parents, who were both track and field runners themselves, have been an inspiration for her throughout her young career. Additionally, she said her high school coach, Robert Rhoads, helped shape her into the runner she is today.
But SU still has not seen Graybill’s full potential. Despite the decorated indoor season, Graybill never got the opportunity to showcase her speed on the outdoor track. With the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic surging back in March, the outdoor track and field season was another sport to fall victim to the pandemic.
And with the upcoming season still uncertain, it could make for two years in a row. However, Graybill does not see it that way, as she continues to push forward and prepare for her sophomore campaign. She is not only priming for next season though – she wants to be better and break more records.
For Graybill, goal setting is another key to her success. It is something she has done since her days of running track in high school.
“I’ve always been a goal setter,” Graybill said. “Last year, I had goals for the indoor and outdoor seasons. But with our outdoor season getting cancelled, I never got the chance to achieve those goals. So, going into this year I have goals of breaking more school records and qualifying for nationals.”
And an outdoor season would be a huge difference maker for her. She said she has always felt that she is at the top of her game in an outdoor setting.
“I like the indoor and outdoor track in their own certain ways,” she said. “They’re definitely different from one another, but if I had the choice, I prefer to run outdoors.”
Going into year two, Graybill is not only excited to reach her personal achievements but see what the Raiders as a whole can accomplish. Last year, at the Gulden Invitational at Bucknell University, the Raiders tied for 1st with East Stroudsburg University at 39 points. A month later, at the PSAC Championships in Edinboro, they placed 5th and 7th over a two-day span.
Graybill led the way in the 60 and 200-meters. She also contributed in the 4x4 relay.
“I think we have a really good opportunity for our women’s 4x4 this year,” Graybill said. “We have a lot of new girls coming in and some that are returning. So, I think that’ll be really fun, and I’m just excited for it.”
Even with the 2020-21 season still in question, Graybill is keeping her head high and is focusing on what she can control. She said, if anything, the ongoing pandemic provided her with some life lessons. She appreciates running track now, more than ever before.
“Our world is crazy right now, so who knows what’s going to happen,” she said. “But I think the pandemic made us all realize that we can’t take sports for granted. We never know when we’re going to have our last race or last game. So, the best thing to do right now is stay motivated and keep pushing forward.”