When Leah Moran entered the Peddie School in 2010, the Princeton resident dreamed of someday playing college basketball.
Joining the perennial Prep A champion girls’ hoops program, Moran hoped to win some championships and hone her skills for the next level.
But when legendary Peddie coach Sean Casey left the school to become the upper school principal for a school in Atlanta before the 2010-11 season, the Falcons went through a rebuilding phase.
Moran, for her part, was switched from her natural shooting guard position to the point guard for her sophomore and junior seasons and went through some ups and downs with the program.
But as things turned rocky with basketball, Moran took up rowing and experienced a smoother ride and achieved her dream of being a college athlete, committing to the Bucknell University crew program.
Moran has no regrets about sticking with basketball. “I have learned a lot from the ups and downs,” said Moran.
“I have learned about sticking with it and working hard. We have focused on being one group as a whole. When we play together more, we make each other better.”
Things have gone a lot better this winter on the court as the Peddie hoops has enjoyed a renaissance, bringing a 12-3 record into the state Prep A title game at Blair which was slated for February 18.
“It feels so good to be doing really well,” said Moran. “I have had a different role and I still enjoy the game so much. We got help from a number of good new players that came in.”
Taking up rowing as a freshman turned out to be a very good move for Moran.
“We are required to do a fall sport; I had heard that the crew team was good and I decided to do rowing,” said Moran.
“You have to be a novice as a freshman. It was definitely hard to get used to it at first. We only had one race in the fall and one race in the spring; it was more learning how to row.”
By sophomore year, Moran had the hang of her new sport. “I was pretty OK with the technique by sophomore year,” said Moran, crediting Peddie coach Barb Grudt, a former Olympic rower who had coaching stints at Penn and Dartmouth, with helping her develop her skills.
“It is not an individual sport, you really have to work with your teammates to become one.”
Last year, Moran took on the role of stroke in the Peddie varsity 4, becoming the rower who sets the rhythm for the boat.
“At first I was really nervous about being stroke but the more I did it, the easier it got,” said Moran. “It gives me confidence; people rely on me in the boat and it shows that the coach has faith in me. The boat is depending on me.”
Moran’s developing confidence in rowing led her to change her college plans.
“I thought I was going to play basketball in college but I realized I had a better shot at crew and I really got into it,” said Moran. “I really liked my team and I really liked my coach.”
As Moran looked at such schools as Boston College, North Carolina, and Williams, she found herself really liking Bucknell.
“It seems similar to Peddie,” said Moran. “I have interest in a lot of things besides rowing. One of my favorite things is singing. They want athletes to participate in other things. They want rowers to work hard when you are on the water. They encourage you to study abroad in the fall; a lot of schools only want you to do that in the summer. I think it is a good fit.”
Moran is ready to work hard for the Bison rowing program. “I am really excited,” said Moran, who is looking forward to a big season this spring with the Peddie crew team and then some heavy ergometer training over the summer in preparation for her Bucknell debut.
“I feel like if I didn’t do a sport in college I would be lost. I love to compete and love being on a team.”
Moran certainly found out a lot about herself through the twists and turns of her Peddie sports career.