‘I’m very happy and very surprised that I did get in’
The average teenager receives probably dozens of messages on her phone every single day. But Midland High senior Erika Leasher received a message on March 14 which was life-changing.
She had been accepted to one of the most prestigious universities in the nation: Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass.
“It was a big surprise. I never thought I’d get in, but I’m very happy and very surprised that I did get in,” said Leasher, who will also join the M.I.T. women’s track and field team as a discus thrower and shot putter. ” … I was kind of in shock (when I found out I had been accepted), because I never thought that would happen. I checked my phone that day and saw that I had gotten in, but it didn’t really hit me for a while.”
Leasher, who is in the top 10 of her graduating class with a 4.60 grade-point average, said the acceptance rate for applicants at M.I.T. is only about seven percent and that the school offers no athletic or academic scholarships. The latter doesn’t seem to dampen her enthusiasm about becoming a member of the Engineers’ track and field team and studying biological engineering one iota.
“It’s pretty difficult to get in (to M.I.T.), so I’m very happy,” she said, noting that she interviewed with a local M.I.T. graduate recently and was told that attending the school is “very hard, but it’s worth it, and it’s a lot of fun.”
Ironically, Leasher, who intends to go on to medical school and study to become a surgeon, has never set foot on the M.I.T. campus.
“I’ve never actually been there, which is interesting. I was going to visit, but with everything closing down (because of the pandemic), I had to decide to go there without ever visiting,” she said. “It looks nice, and I’ve been to the East coast before, and that was nice.”
Leasher said her plans to become a surgeon suit her personality perfectly.
“I’ve always liked working with my hands, and I like staying busy, and I could never see myself in an office job, so this is one career that fits all of those things,” she said. ” … I took the hardest classes I could at Midland High to prepare for this. It’ll definitely be a challenge, and I will have to study a lot, but I’m sure it will be worth it in the long run.
” … I’m pretty close with my family, so it’ll be a little difficult being so far away,” she added. “My other option was to go to Michigan State, which would’ve been a lot closer to home, but I picked the school that I thought would best prepare me for my future.”
As an athlete, Leasher took up the shot put in seventh grade at Northeast Middle School, then added the discus to her repertoire when she got to MHS as a freshman. She said the discus is “definitely my favorite.”
“I’m better at it, and it’s the one I really like to do,” she said. ” … One thing I really like about the discus is that there’s so much you can change (in your technique). It seems like the same repetitive motion, but, actually, there are so many factors you can change to improve your throwing.”
Leasher, whose personal-record in the discus is 118-feet, 1-inch and whose PR in the shot put is 33-feet, 0.75-inch, said she definitely prefers the field half to track and field.
“I don’t really like running,” she said with a chuckle. “But I wanted to be on the track team, so I took up throwing. The people who throw are really fun, and I’ve met a lot of friends through that.”
Looking ahead to her time at M.I.T., Leasher said she will find plenty to keep her busy when she’s not studying or competing.
“I’ve always liked doing crafts, and I like hanging out with friends. Of course, I don’t know anybody there yet, but I’ll make new friends,” she said, adding with another chuckle, “And even though I don’t really like to run, I’ll probably do that once in a while.”
Chemics’ girls’ track and field coach Diane Sugnet said she couldn’t be happier for Leasher.
“I’m thrilled that Erika gets to fulfill her dreams by throwing at college,” said Sugnet. “M.I.T. is an awesome school, so she will get a great education and will be one of their top throwers, too. It is the perfect combination for her.”