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The secret to her success: Get up early and fear nothing The (early) rise of Casady's Leigh McCoy

The secret of All-American field hockey player’s success: Wake up early and fear nothing

by Jenni Carlson Modified: June 8, 2007 at 10:40 pm •  Published: June 8, 2007
Many mornings, Aleda Toma would find a note in her daughter's handwriting stuck on the coffee pot.

Wake me up at 4.

Not p.m. but a.m.

Leigh McCoy prefers a 4 a.m. wake-up call to a 2 a.m. bedtime, but really, her energy runs high all day. It has to. Her senior year at Casady School included field hockey, basketball and track as well as four Advanced Placement classes and yearbook editor duties.

"I'm most proud of her work ethic,” her mother said. "She always works hard at everything.”

Her father smiled.

"I'm just proud of it all,” he said.

There's plenty to be proud of. Being an All-American in field hockey. Scoring a 1,430 on the SAT. Getting accepted to Harvard. Receiving one of the Bob Colon Scholarships, presented by The Oklahoman and the Jim Thorpe Association to the top female high school scholar-athlete in the Oklahoma City area.

Her mother is an oncologist, her father a finance lawyer. Neither came from families of great privilege growing up in the southwest corner of the state. They instilled drive in their daughter.

Perhaps their greatest lesson was this:

"Don't be afraid of anything.”

McCoy has run with that, finding success in an unexpected sport and charging into more activities than some closest to her thought advisable. Her broad smile and quick laugh disguise the grit of a fighter.

"Somebody may beat me,” McCoy said, "but they're not going to outwork me.”

Anything but field hockey
Leigh McCoy began playing sports at 5, when her dad put a tennis racket in her hands. Not long after, her mom did the same with a basketball. Those were the sports they played in small-town Oklahoma.

Field hockey?

"This was the last sport we wanted her to play,” her mother said.

But even in elementary school PE class, young Leigh stood out to field hockey coach Susan Erickson. She was fast and skilled and tough. Still, Erickson wondered if she'd ever have a chance to coach her.

"I am not playing field hockey,” she remembers McCoy saying. "My mother says it's too dangerous.”

She played varsity as a freshman, then became a starter as a sophomore. Her junior year she broke out, being named regional All-American.

Which brought her to a realization — she might actually be pretty good.

McCoy attended half a dozen camps last summer. Then last winter, after leading Casady to the Southwest Preparatory Conference title and being selected one of 32 All-Americans, she went to the national field hockey festival. There, McCoy talked with recruiters, including coaches from Harvard.

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by Jenni Carlson
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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