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 hockeyLeigh 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. They'd watched her. They'd also decided they wanted her to visit campus. Less than a month later, McCoy signed with Harvard. "I wanted to go somewhere I could really challenge myself academically,” she said.
Accepting the challengesLeigh McCoy decided before her senior year to take Calculus BC, an accelerated class covering a full year of college-level calculus. Several teachers discouraged her from taking it, not because of the material but because of her schedule. "I can do this,” McCoy insisted. She arrived at school by 6:30 every morning to get extra help. She made A's except for one test. It pushed her cumulative grade below an A, so she had to take the final. "It's so upsetting,” she said. "I'm very bitter about it.” She was joking. Sort of. In addition to a full load of advanced classes, McCoy worked as editor of the yearbook. She worked an hour before class, an hour or two during the day and another hour after class. The standard was high since Casady won national awards for the best K-12 yearbook the past seven years. Taylor Lane and Courtney Martin, two of McCoy's best friends, worked on the yearbook, too. "I felt like I should be getting a salary for it,” Lane joked. But they know no one worked harder than McCoy. "You didn't want to say anything mean to her,” Lane said. "She probably would have thrown you out.” McCoy admitted: "There were those days when I'd just break down and freak out. ‘This will be the worst yearbook ever.'” By all accounts, that didn't happen. "She never appeared to me to be afraid to do what she wanted to do,” said Erickson, the coach who also served at McCoy's adviser. "I'd like to say there was something magical, but from the time she was a child, there was something special about her.”
Time out for TVFor all that she does, there's one time Leigh McCoy refuses to work. When reality TV is on. "Which is really embarrassing,” she said. "Those are awful TV shows, but I really like them.” A perfect teen, she is not. She's forever talking on her cell phone, doesn't always keep her room clean and sometimes she even sleeps — gasp — until 5:30 on a school morning. "She's a very normal kid in a lot of ways,” her father said. "But she gets a lot done. We'd like to be able to take credit, but she's done a lot on her own.” Done a lot well, too.
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