Leighton shuffles off to Buffalo
Evie Leighton, middle, is flanked my mom Meg Leighton on her left and dad Dave Leighton on her right. Photo by: BILL POTRECZ.
Evie Leighton’s dream has become reality.
The 17-year-old, Grade 12 student at Eden High School has officially committed to swim and study sport and exercise health care at Canisius College in Buffalo.
Leighton signed on the dotted line in front of parents Dave and Meg Leighton, Eden swim coach Andrew White and other assorted teachers and friends in a ceremony held Wednesday at Eden.
“Ever since I was 12 years old I had a dream of going to a Division I school. It’s always been a dream to go there,” Leighton said.
The Niagara-on-the-Lake resident admitted there was a time she wasn’t sure things would work out quite so well.
“My recruitment year was my junior year and that was when COVID was a thing,” she said. “It was two years of on and off training and I didn’t really know if I could become Division I, so I’m really excited for it.”
Leighton said Canisius is ideal, in and out of the pool.
“The coach reached out to me in September. I was looking at other schools in West Virginia and the east coast but this school I feel was a really good fit for me because of the program I want to take, which I’m really excited about,” she said. “The other schools I would have had to take a general biology.”
Leighton said Golden Griffiths coach Scott Vanderzell also made a good impression on her.
“The coach was really nice and the team really welcomed me in when I was there for my official visit,” she said. “It felt like a family and I could see the potential in myself there.”
Canisius competes in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
“The sport is individual but their conference is smaller but you can always get that NCAA time and go to the NCAAs. That’s always been a dream of time too,” Leighton said.
Leighton said the school also came through with an attractive financial package which make her decision easier.
“It’s not cheap (to attend Canisius),” she said. “It’s a solid academic (scholarship), solid athletic (scholarship), and a couple of other scholarships.”
Leighton, who specializes in the backstroke, sprint and freestyle, began swimming when she was 10 years old. For the last seven years, she has been a member of Star Swimming in Buffalo and has concentred solely on swimming.
“It takes up so much of my time. I’m there six days a week in Buffalo. It’s a lot of commitment,” she said.
Leighton is leaving behind an impressive legacy at Eden where she is the single highest record holder of any student with five. She also earned a silver in the 200-metre freestyle and a bronze in the open girls 100-metre freestyle at the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations (OFSAA) championships this year.
“I think I learned a lot more from her than she did from me,” Eden swim coach Andrew White said. “She is very close to Canadian time standards and she’s been an absolute treat to have on the team.
“Just watching her amazing technique and just going out there and training hard every single time we had a practice.”
White also appreciated Leighton’s willingness to help out other Eden swimmers.
“To take that extra time when she was training, to give some guidance to the other students, small little refinements of launching yourself off the diving platform or sharpening up that turn, really helped our swimmers become faster,” he said.
Leighton will miss Eden.
“I’ve got a family here, especially with the teachers and my friends, but it’s still close enough to come back,” she said.
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