Raised in New Iberia, 30 minutes outside of Lafayette, Morgann LeLeux got her start as an athlete early on in life. Since then, she has been striving for greatness, and this year she was able to compete in the Olympics.
She hit her stride as a level 10 gymnast, but her dad’s experience with pole vaulting led her to give it a try. “It only took me a couple practices with him, and I kinda fell in love with it, because it was so easy at the time for me,” LeLeux said. Her experience with gymnastics and body awareness helped everything click.
LeLeux started pole vaulting in sixth grade and by seventh grade, she began going to state competitions against high schoolers.
“I qualified for state real easy, so I kinda knew from the start that this could be something,” LeLeux said.
At the time, she kept pole vaulting for fun, but that would change in her junior year of high school when she started to take it more seriously.
She received a few small school offers for gymnastics, but for pole vaulting, she had 21 full-ride scholarship offers. She finished her undergraduate career as a Georgia Bulldog before moving back home after she sustained a few injuries.
“I had a successful career, but I knew if I wanted to get to the next level, I had to make a change.” After moving home, the current Louisiana track coach reached out to her. “Lon Badeaux gave me the opportunity to be able to compete as a Ragin’ Cajun, as my last semester,” she said.
After competing in college, she was ready for the next level. A few things had changed since then though.
“Now it’s all about recovery and taking care of myself and my whole mentality has definitely changed since college to now,” she said.
LeLeux knew she wanted to compete at the Olympics a while before the end of her college career.
“I remember seeing Carly Patterson compete and realizing this is what I want to do. My first Olympic dreams started with gymnastics,” she said.
That original dream was in 2004, but pole vaulting proved to be the easier and faster route to achieving her dreams. She was able to stay home, keep her dad as her coach and receive a college scholarship as a pole vaulter. And with pole vaulting, she had already qualified for the Olympic trials as early as 2012.
However, competing in this year’s Olympics was a whole different battle.
“The hardest part for training for the Olympics was definitely dieting. Living in South Louisiana is a very hard place to diet,” she said.
Thankfully she was able to hire a nutritionist to create her meal plans.
And though things were quite different due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there were two things from her experience that were her favorite:
“Walking out in that stadium, I’ve never seen a stadium so beautiful, so big, and competing against the top of the top all here at one time, ” she said.
She got to meet and talk to a lot of girls that she’d been following through social media.
The next best thing from her Olympic experience was all the gear. She didn’t have to pay for any of the competition gear or village wear from top brands like Nike and Polo.
As for LeLeux’s future as an Olympian, she plans to take it year by year.
“I do want to have kids at some point, so next year I’ll make my decision on if I go for Paris or not,” she said.
Another big factor in her decision is if COVID-19 difficulties will still be around by then. During this year’s Olympics, besides her dad who served as her coach, the rest of her family couldn’t attend. There were also strict rules on venturing in the city besides the few designated buildings they could go to. Then following the Paris Olympics is the Los Angeles Olympics.
“Now, L.A. is a little bit different because I definitely will have a kid or two before then so depending on how I recover, so I can’t say yeah I’m going for Paris or yeah I’m going for L.A., but I’m definitely considering it and definitely open-minded about it,” LeLeux said.
LeLeux credits her dad, David Butler, Jonathan Hill and Chase Duhon as the people who have made the biggest impact on her career so far.
“Of course my dad had a huge impact, I mean he’s the one that introduced me to the sport, pretty much taught me everything I know,” she said.
Along with her dad, her mom and husband make up the perfect trifecta support system.
As for David Butler, he is like a mentor to LeLeux. “I had a lot of trouble with my pole carrying, and David Butler gave me a lot of really good drills that helped me understand what to do, how to do it and why to do it,” LeLeux said.
Jonathan Hill, whom she met through Butler as they both work for Rice University, taught her a lot as well.
“He’s the one that made my training for the year and cycles for my sprint workouts and gave me a new mentality to look at training as quality over quantity and that was huge for me,” she said. Chase Duhon served as her dietician, which was also huge for her.
Aside from being an Olympic athlete, LeLeux loves to coach gymnastics at her parent’s gym, New Heights Gym.
“There is something about building a young athlete and watching that athlete grow that’s just so fascinating to me,” she said.
She also loves landscaping and anything to do with getting a cup of coffee.
Keep your eyes peeled for LeLeux in the coming year. As an Olympic athlete, this Ragin’ Cajun alum has proved she can do anything she dreams of.
Story: Madelyn Myer