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Small-town girl makes big strides on the track

By MIKE FORMAN
May 6, 2013 at 12:06 a.m.

Nordheim junior Alyssa Leister rides her ATV among the cattle on her family's land. Leister qualified for the state meet in the 200- and 400-meter dashes, as well as the long jump.

NORDHEIM - Alyssa Leister had some reservations about moving back to this tiny DeWitt County community for her junior year of high school.

Leister had been attending school at Yorktown since the sixth grade and had gone to the state meet as a member of the track and field team her freshman year.

"I actually wasn't thrilled to come here," Leister said. "I had been here my fifth-grade year, but I didn't know anybody anymore. I wasn't sure how the track team was. But it ended up going pretty well."

Leister couldn't be happier with her new surroundings.

She enjoys living with her father, Keith, in their country home where she can spend time with her animals.

She has made friends with her classmates and likes attending a smaller school.

Leister has also excelled on the track, qualifying for the Class 1A, Division II UIL State Track and Field State Championships in three events.

Leister will compete in the long jump and 400- and 200-meter dashes Friday in Austin.

"Everybody's saying no one's been to state from here in however many years," Leister said. "Well, I guess it's a good thing I get to go.

"Everybody else is like, 'Where's Nordheim? I've never heard of that.' I'm like it's a little school with five people in each grade."

Leister actually has six people in her class - five girls and one boy - and she is the first Nordheim athlete to qualify for the state meet since Monica Pfeifer won a gold medal in the 100-meter hurdles in 1991.

Leister is seeded second in the long jump, third in the 400 and fifth in the 200.

"Since going to state my freshman year, my goal has been to get back to state," Leister said. "I ran the third leg on the mile relay, and we finished eighth. I really wanted to make it.

"I made it, and then I saw I was rated near the top. I know I have to worry about placing, and that makes me keep working hard."

Nordheim coach Carlton Williams isn't surprised with Leister's success, especially in the 400.

He competed in the event at North Garland and Texas A&M-Kingsville and sees similar qualities in Leister and himself.

"The 400 is a tough race, and you've got to be mentally strong, and you've got to hate to lose to run that race," he said. "I think what separates her from everybody else is that last 100 - how hard she fights to win. She doesn't quit.

"We always talk about breaking people," he added. "That's when somebody's right beside you, and you make them give up, and you keep going. I think she's good at that."

Leister collapsed on the track after running her first 400 as part of a 1,600-meter relay team in junior high.

But she's gained more confidence through her almost daily visits to the weight room and the track in Kenedy, where the five girls on the Lady Pirates team practice.

"I start off fairly fast because I don't like being behind anybody," Leister said. "I run the first 200, and I start to slow down before the 300. When I get to the 300, that's when I try to give it everything I have and use up all the energy I have left where I'm sprinting the last 100."

Leister knows there will be more people in the stands at Mike A. Myers Stadium than the entire population of her hometown.

But she's is looking forward to the experience.

"I think it probably will make me nervous," she said. "But I think it will also give me more motivation to do better."

Williams expects nothing less than Leister's best.

"Track is the kind of a thing where if you do your best, that's all you can do," he said. "We want her going out there and setting a personal record in every event. If she does that, that will be good."

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