IOLA — When it comes to Iola-Scandinavia junior cross country standout Leighten Fischer, improvement has definitely become her forte.
Not only has she improved her times this season in all of her races this season compared to a year ago, but she also found her way to the WIAA Division 3 State Meet two times.
Fischer will look to return to state for the third time in her Thunderbirds career. She previously placed 29th as a freshman with a time of 16:11.25 running a 4,000-meter race.
The distance was extended to 5,000 meters for the girls in 2014 when Fischer placed 19th as a sophomore.
Fischer’s tendency of improvement has carried on with her to state, and if her trends stay on track she could place in the top 10 if she qualifies for state again this year.
A friendly rivalry between her and teammate Erika Kisting could motivate her to get there.
Both Fischer and Kisting have placed in the top five in nearly every meet this season, finishing virtually alongside each other. Even though Fischer’s smile is contagious, she definitely puts her game face on when she’s running.
“I have been very impressed with her work ethic and attitude from that very first practice,” Iola-Scandinavia cross country coach Tom Anderson said.
“She has been receptive to me as a first year cross country coach and I appreciate the leadership she has given the team, especially with our younger runners. Leighten is running well heading into conference and sectionals.”
What are your biggest improvements and differences between your sophomore season and your current junior season? The biggest difference from my sophomore year to my junior year would be the change in distance. Last year was the first year we started running a 5K instead of 2.5 miles. It was hard to get used to it, but once you got a few races in you were used to it. I took off quite a bit of time from different meets this year compared to last year. This year, I have for sure improved from what my times were last year, each race from last year to this year I have improved my time.
What has been the highlight of your cross country career up to this point? The highlight of my cross country career would for sure have to be running at state. It was one of the coolest experiences I have ever had. The amount of people and support you have at that meet is crazy.
Who do you look to for inspiration in life and what lessons have they taught you that will stay with you? I would have to say I look towards my dad for inspiration in life. He has always taught me to be hard working and always give it 100 percent, nothing less. He gives me good advice that will always stick with me to think about before every race, meet or basketball game.
If you could meet anyone in the history of the world, dead or alive, who would you choose and what question would you ask them? One person I would like to meet would be Usain Bolt. The reason why I would like to meet him is because he is known as the fastest person ever and was the first man to hold the 100- and 200-meter world records. One thing I would like to ask him would be how does it feel to be the fastest person ever.
What’s on the top of your bucket list that you absolutely have to get done before you turn 40? Go to Australia and see the Great Barrier Reef.
Do you have any pre-race rituals that you have to do before every race? Something that I have to do before every race is walk the course with my team, if I don’t walk the course before a meet, it doesn’t feel like it’s race day.
Tell us something about yourself that the average person wouldn’t know: I started going to Iola in fourth grade and before that I went to Marion school.
What is your idea of happiness? My idea of happiness is family and friends. Being around them can always make a bad day turn into a good one.
Sport: Cross Country
Family: Mom, Jackie; Dad, Kyle; Brother, Kal (19)
Favorite subject: Gym
Career aspirations: Criminal investigator
Favorite food: Lasagna
Favorite movie: “The Longest Ride”
Favorite TV show: “Full House”
Favorite cartoon character: Popeye
Favorite pro athlete: Aaron Rodgers
Favorite pro team: Packers
Dream vacation destination: Australia