A push from generations of multi-sport athlete relatives, the pressure of being an elite track athlete and the strain of studying for dual-credit courses like AP Chemistry can wear a girl down.
That’s why Leanna Mulloy is happy she has yoga.
A large part of her weekly routine is a 30-minute DVD called “Yoga for Athletes” that helps her prepare her body and rest her mind.
“It makes you stronger and more flexible,” Mulloy said. “They have a whole bunch of different stretches.”
The Kankakee Valley junior is one of the area’s top sprinters, having picked up in fine fashion after a stellar sophomore campaign. With the Jungels sisters, freshman Jenna and junior Joli, bringing out the best in her each day in practice, the only moments she has for rest are the yoga sessions at home and a weekly or bi-weekly session of intense resistance stretching called ki-hara, a technique that is becoming popular with Olympians. Ki-hara requires a trained partner to provide optimal resistance.
“It helps you find imbalances and strengthen them so your body can become more in tune with itself,” Mulloy said. “With everything that I end up doing, it’s very relaxing. I find myself taking really deep breaths at meets because your brain just remembers to do it all the time.”
Mulloy’s breath-taking time in the 100-meter dash, 12.39 seconds, is best in the area and tied for second in the state. Her current best 200 time, 26.19, is third in the area with freshman teammate Jenna Jungels on top with a 25.98.
“A lot of people dwell on times, but it’s not what you’ve done; it’s what you’re going to do,” Mulloy said. “That’s how I approach it.”
Last year Mulloy set the school mark in the 200 with a 25.4 and broke Northwest Crossroads Conference and Kankakee Valley Sectional marks in the 100 and 200 (repeating sectional titles in the process) while helping the 1,600 relay team set a school record and the 400 relay reach state. Conference meets start a week from today, and sectionals are the following Tuesday.
Mulloy made it to state in the individual 100 and 200 after placing second in the regional sandwiched between AAU and offseason training partner Airrica Harper (Merrillville) and Arielle Borders (Lew Wallace). This spring she was eighth in the 55 dash at the Hoosier State Relays in the large-school division.
“When you work out with other fine athletes you develop more focus and determination to be at your best,” K.V. coach Lane Lewallen said. “Lee’s never been one to shy away from competing against the best, and that just helps her become even better. The region has long been very strong in track and field, so the more you can train with the better athletes, the better you’re going to be in the long run.”
Luckily this spring the Jungels sisters are pushing hard, as is the fourth part of the dazzling 400 relay, Gabby Martin.
“It’s nice to get a taste of what the regional is going to be like all the time,” Mulloy said. “You know what to do and what you’re striving to do.”
The fact that Mulloy fires up relay teammates at races and takes time away from the track to reset herself with yoga, a method she recommends for any athlete who feels worn down, is a testament her reverence for her craft.
“She’s very determined and very serious and passionate about track and field like I am,” Lewallen said. “It’s a special sport to us, and that comes out in her dedication.”