If it wasn’t for basketball and track, Tierra Leisure would just, well, just wouldn’t know where she would be mentally and emotionally right now.
The Elk Grove High School senior has found comfort and support from her teammates on those two squads through some very trying days.
On Jan. 23, just one day shy of her 18th birthday, Tierra and her family were shocked with the news that her father Kerry had died in a tragic accident on Bradshaw Road. The elder Leisure was driving his motorcycle northbound when he crashed into a semi-trailer truck that suddenly pulled out of a construction lot near Keifer Road.
He was just 40-years-old.
“I went to basketball that day,” Tierra recalled. “I was doing it for him. Dad was really into basketball. He ran the shot clock, kept score and all those things.”
Kerry was her coach as she grew up and was her number one fan. Tierra wasn’t going to let him down by not playing out the season.
It’s been hard since then not only for Tierra, but her mother, Sherri, and younger brothers Matthew and Zachary and sister, Chloe.
“It was so sudden,” she recalled. “We’re trying to help each other out. I push things aside to help Mom and my younger siblings to get through things.”
What helped back in Januray, too, was that the Thundering Herd was in the middle of its most successful basketball season since 2008 when Elk Grove was 20-8 under then coach Brian Benson.
“We were playing good and made the playoffs,” Tierra said of the 2013-2014 Herd squad. “We did lose in the first round, but we knew we had accomplished something.”
Elk Grove finished the year with a 17-11 record, 7-3 in the Delta Valley Conference, with Leisure as a big contributor in many ways. She averaged 6.5 points, 2.7 assists, 3.5 steals and four rebounds a game.
When basketball season was over, she went outside and started workouts with the track and field squad. Just as she exhibited on the hard courts, Leisure became a leader on the Mondo running surface.
She’ll be counted on big this weekend as the post-season begins for track with the Delta Valley Conference championships at Monterey Trail High School. The trials are Wednesday with the finals on Friday.
Leisure is not only one of the team’s fastest runners at 200 meters, but she’s a part of the 4x400 meter relay team which is considered an early favorite for the Sac-Joaquin Section’s Masters meet in two weeks.
Plus, she’ll also be one of Elk Grove’s entry into the 300 meter hurdles, one of the sport’s most grueling events.
Running right alongside of her on the Herd relay squad is another young lady who recently lost her father, Jenny Gaio.
“We call each other, ‘track sisters’,” Leisure said.
The pair huddles together prior to each workout, have a few moments of private remembrances of their dads, write the fathers’ initials on their armbands and go off running.
Gaio is competing this weekend in the 400 and the 800 meters for Elk Grove.
The top four marks in each event will advance to next weekend’s Division I meet, which will be at Elk Grove Community Stadium. From there the top 12 advance to the Section Masters, May 29 and 30, also at Elk Grove.
Leisure likes the prospect that just about all of her teammates will make it as far as the Masters.
“Our 4x400 team has a real good chance of making it to state,” she said. “We’ve run a 3:55.21 this year and that’s one of the fastest times yet.”
It’s actually the second-best time run in the Section this season in this event. Leisure is joined on that relay team by Jazmine Smith, Haley Grieger and Arianna Daniel. Smith also possesses the Section’s second fastest time in the 200 meters and the fourth-best mark in the 400 meters.
If the Elk Grove relay team does qualify for the State Track and Field Meet, which will be run at Buchanan High School June 6 and 7, you can count on the fact Tierra will be thinking about her father with every stride.
When she does graduate from Elk Grove on the 27th, she’ll likely hang up the track spikes and the basketball sneakers. Tierra wants to stay home and help out her mother and his siblings. Yet, she still wants to pursue a college degree.
She’s planning on attending Sacramento State in the fall and major in psychology with a minor in criminal justice. Her father was in law enforcement, too.
“I want to be a profiler,” she said. “I love trying to figure out the mind and why people do the things that they do. And, by doing this I can help people who have been put in danger and I’ve always wanted to have a career that helps people.”