Photo by Don Rich
Monday night, Leah Nugent will step on the track in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for the opening round of the 400-meter hurdles. She'll be wearing the yellow, green, and black of Team Jamaica, but it wasn't long ago that she was wearing the maroon jersey of Abington Senior High School.
Nugent's career began in 2008 at Abington. She won three individual state championships in a decorated career. The first came at the 2009 PIAA Outdoor State Championships, running a 41.46 in the 300-meter hurdles for the win and a PIAA meet record. She also anchored the Ghosts' winning 4x400-meter relay.
Photo by Don Rich
In 2010, she was upset for the win in the 300-meter hurdles at outdoor states. But prior to that, she was the Penn Relays champion in the 400-meter hurdles. She left us after that meet with a little foreshadowing of what was to come in her career: "I think (the 400-meter hurdles) will be my main race. I really like it." Watch her interview after her Penn victory below:
She came back to win the 60-meter hurdles at indoor states her senior year in a time of 8.45 in a very close race. From the archives, watch that race below:
Nugent kept the success rolling into the spring track season. She shattered Ryann Krais' state record in the 300-meter hurdles, blasting a 41.10 for the win after not making the finals of the 100-meter hurdles. That time still stands as the all-time Pennsylvania state record.
Her 4x400-meter relay team also broke the PIAA meet record that same day, running 3:46.20, a record that stood until just a few months ago. She spoke with us after her last PIAA state meet and her record run in the intermediate hurdles. Watch the interview below:
She went to Virginia Tech after high school before eventually transferring the the University of Kentucky. At the collegiate level, she focused on the event she got a taste of at the Penn Relays in high school: the 400-meter hurdles.
She finished third at NCAAs in 2015, her final season at UK, in a time of 55.82. She competed at the Jamaican Trials (her father is Jamaican) and took second a few months ago in a new personal best of 55.44 to take second and qualify for the Olympic Games in Rio.
In Rio tonight at the Olympic Games, she will be in heat three of six in the 400-meter hurdles. It will go off at approximately 8:46 PM.
Via YouTube, watch her Jamaican Trials race and PR in the 400-meter hurdles: