Egg Harbor Township High School girls track and field standout Isabella Leak is going from one strong track program to another.
Leak, an 18-year-old EHT resident, will attend Monmouth University in West Long Branch. She will run cross country and track for the Hawks’ NCAA Division I program.
The 5-foot-5 Leak will receive a partial scholarship that’s both athletic and academic.
The Monmouth women’s track and field team won the team title at the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Outdoor Championships six straight years from 2014-19. There was no spring season this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The cross country team placed fourth among 11 teams in the MAAC championship meet in the 2019 fall season. Indoors, Monmouth placed third in the MAAC meet in February after winning the conference meet the previous six years.
“It’s really cool to be on such a good team,” said Leak, who has mostly run middle distance, primarily 800 and 1,600 meters, in track.
“They’ve had a lot of success in the MAAC, and the coaches have a lot of talent coming in. I’m really excited to see what we can do this year.”
Leak visited Monmouth in early February, committed to the school in March and signed a national letter of intent in April. She also visited Rider and Jefferson universities.
“It felt a lot like home,” Leak said of Monmouth. “It’s not far from the beach, like where I live. I went to the beach and checked it out.
“The team was very welcoming. It was Super Bowl Sunday when I visited, and we had a Super Bowl party. It was really fun. I really liked the campus. It was not too big. Coach (Mike) Nelson (the head coach and director of track and field and cross country) and (assistant) coach (Damon) Godfrey were really nice.”
Leak will major in nursing, a profession very much in the spotlight during the pandemic. “It gets a lot more recognition now, which is really cool,” she said.
Leak helped the Eagles win the Atlantic County girls team championship in May 2019 at Buena Regional by winning the 1,600 in 5 minutes, 27.63 seconds and being part of the winning 4x800 team. Her relay teammates were Kayla Cottrell, Madison Morgan and Michaela Pomatto. EHT finished the season ranked seventh in The Press Elite 11, and Leak was a second-team Press All-Star.
In January, during the 2019-20 indoor season, Leak teamed with Gabrielle Germann, Lauren Princz and Anne Rutledge to win the state Group IV sprint medley relay in 4:17.52 at the Bennett Center in Toms River. In February, she ran a personal-best 1,600 leg of 5:05.14 as EHT took fourth in the distance medley in 12:11.47 at the Eastern States Championships in New York. Her relay teammates in the race were Olivia Shafer, Rutledge and Jaidyn Mulloy.
“Isabella is a born leader,” EHT coach Erika Vazquez said. “She embodies all the characteristics a coach would dream of in an athlete. All the other girls look up to her. She takes the younger kids under her wing. She’s a good role model, not just on the track, but she’s a good student as well.”
Cross country, Leak’s upcoming fall season, will be something new to her. She played soccer for four years at EHT in the fall. In 2019, the Eagles were 11-7-1, with Leak scoring one goal and getting two assists.
“I played midfielder and defense, but I liked mid better because you run from one end of the field to the other all the time,” Leak said. “It’ll be a big difference to run cross country. College women run a 6K in cross country; that’s 3.7 miles. I’m very excited to try it out, so we’ll see how it goes.”
Leak said she likes running because it’s a way to relax and something she can do with friends.
“If you put a lot into it, you get a lot out of it,” she said. “Anyone can be a good runner if they have the determination to succeed and improve.”
Leak and her teammates were looking forward to a big outdoor track season until the pandemic shut down high school sports throughout the state.
“It’s sad to not see what they would have done,” Vazquez said. “But I know they will go on to do great things, including Isabella.”