I-S senior heading to St. Cloud State
By Holly Neumann
Leighten Fischer is taking her track talents to Minnesota.
The Iola-Scandinavia High School senior will attend St. Cloud State University, a Division 2 school, to compete in track.
“It came down to Southwestern Minnesota State (in Marshall) and St. Cloud,” Fischer said. “I really liked the campus and the atmosphere at St. Cloud. It felt like home.”
Fischer’s four years of high school athletics has included state appearances in track and cross country as well as basketball.
“For now, I am just planning on participating in track and field at St. Cloud, but we will see,” she said. “I may try cross country as well.”
Fischer’s accomplishments include four trips to the WIAA State Cross Country Meet; seven events in her three appearances at the WIAA State Track & Field Meet. She holds the school record in the 300-meter hurdles and is a member of the record-setting 1,600-meter relay team. She hopes to qualify in four events at this year’s state track meet in June.
She also reached the 1,000-point milestone as a senior in basketball; won four varsity letters in the sport; made the all-conference first team as a junior and senior; and will represent Iola-Scandinavia in June in the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association All-Star Games.
“I have been running since I was in the sixth grade,” Fischer said. “I love the competition of it all, the drive. I love that every year I have been able to do something different. I don’t like to stick to one event and do it all the time.”
She added the 300-meter hurdles this spring in track.
“It all started when Coach O’s (Asherrie Opperman) husband Joe suggested I give them a try,” she said. “Our parent volunteer, Sherri Lashua, and head coach Bruce Beyersdorf agreed. I picked it up pretty easy and now I am breaking my own personal records over and over again.”
She set a new record at the Waupaca County Meet in April in her second attempt at the hurdles.
“I guess I should thank Joe,” she said. “I wish I would have started earlier.”
Fischer takes the attitude that whatever happens happens.
“I don’t really look back and reflect,” she said. “I look forward to the next meet.”
Fischer signed her National Letter of Intent to attend St. Cloud State quietly at home, with only her father by her side.
“In my opinion, it was not a big deal,” she said. “I did not even take a picture. The kids that go to Division 1 schools should get the attention.”
Fischer credits her parents, Kyle and Jackie, for giving her the drive to do well.
“My dad was a pitcher and a quarterback,” she said. “My mom was great at basketball and softball. They were competitive and they taught me to be the same way. They have always been there for me and supported everything I do. They have definitely been the biggest influence to me.”
Fischer plans to major in recreation and sports management, in addition to minoring in coaching, in college.
“I love sports and athletics, so I thought this career field would be a good fit for me,” she said. “My hope is to be a college athletic director or coach at a higher level.”
She is looking forward to participating at the collegiate level for track as well.
“I will be attending on a partial scholarship, so my goal for the season is to be able to score conference points,” she said. “You start with your scholarship offer and it does not go down from there. By scoring conference points or if you are doing really well, you can get more money. College is expensive, so that alone encourages me to be the best I can be. The more money you can get for something you love to do, the better.”
Fischer’s advice to future athletes is to work hard and listen to coaches.
“You have to put in as much as you can if you want to get a lot out of it,” she said. “You have to work at it and practice hard. You have to believe in your coaches and the advice they give to you.”
Fischer will be missed at Iola-Scandinavia, according to Asherrie Opperman, who has coached her in track and cross country.
“Leighten is a once-in-a-generation athlete,” she said. “As a coach, she is everything you could want in an athlete. I can’t put into words how much she will be missed.”
Fischer is the ultimate example and leader for those around her, according to Opperman.
“She’s the hardest worker in the room and holds those around her accountable,” she said. “She encourages and helps everyone on the team, sets the bar so high for herself that it commands the respect of her teammates and is an amazing role model.”