By BOB ETTINGER
For the Star Beacon
LeeAnn Farr is breaking up with her boyfriend. Figuratively, at least. The three-sport standout at Jefferson will pursue a career in track while attending Mars Hill University in North Carolina.
“I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately,” Farr, the daughter of Darren and Deneen Gollon and Steve and Melissa Ernst, said. “I could do all three (sports I played in high school), but that would be so overwhelming. I considered playing basketball and just doing outdoor track, but I don’t think I could handle that.
“I’ve been playing basketball since fourth grade. I feel like basketball’s been my boyfriend the nine years. I love all three sports. I’d give anything just to be able to play another volleyball and basketball game. That was the time of my life.”
Instead, Farr will pursue a relatively new love. She threw the shot and disc for the Falcons, but only did so for a short time. At Mars Hill, she will add an event completely new to her.
“If you had asked me during my sophomore year what I was going to play in college, it would have been basketball.
“I was walking down the hall one day and our AD (Steve) Locy, said I should go throw for the track team. I’d never done anything in the spring, so why not? I didn’t realize I’d be good at it. I try to imagine what I could’ve been. I’ve got a chance, now, to see how far I can go with it.”
Farr will pursue a degree in animal biology while at Mars Hill.
“One thing I’ve always wanted to do was work at a wildlife rehabilitation center,” she said.
She isn’t sure where her love for animals comes from, but Farr just knows it’s there.
“When I was younger, I took a strong interest in animals,” she said. “I was one of those girls who, when my dad went deer hunting, I cried. I just couldn’t handle the thought. It’s something I want to do the rest of my life.”
The school 10 miles from Asheville in the Blue Ridge Mountains is the perfect place to pursue her chosen field.
“There are nine wildlife centers in the region,” Farr said. “There are rehab centers on the beach for marine animals and Asheville has a really big zoo.
“Mars Hill offers internships to both places. I could possibly get a job right out of college at one of them.”
A career in animal biology means Farr will have to take an inordinate number of science classes.
“A lot, actually,” she said. “My first semester will be basic classes like English. My junior and senior year, I will have to take three different chemistry classes and two anatomy classes.
“Science has always been a relatively better subject for me, but I know it will be difficult those last two years.”
Though Farr’s first love was basketball, she chose track for a pretty good reason.
“I sent film into the volleyball and basketball coaches and stats into the track coach,” she said. “I wanted to see what kind of money I could get. The most I was offered was for track. The first year, it’s not that much.
“They have a good track program and with work, I could become really good.”
With Mars Hill being a Division II institution, Farr can receive scholarship money and will get a good chunk of change.
“I will get around $9,500 for my report card and GPA,” she said. “I will get $9,000 for track. The more progress I make, the more money they will get me.”
Throwing the javelin will be entirely new to Farr.
“I’ve never touched a javelin,” she said. “I’m pretty sure it’s illegal here.
“Actually, I am extremely excited. When the coaches first saw me, the first question they asked at our meeting, they was if I’d ever thrown the javelin. I said I didn’t think it was legal.
“At first, I had to think about what a javelin was. I knew it was a long spear. They started to talk about what I could do with it and that became a big goal for me. I want to be able to conquer it.”
That said, she will spend a lot of time learning how to dance, so to speak.
“Pretty much,” Farr said. “The first six months, I will be doing footwork in the studio. I will be on my feet getting the feel for it. It will be the same with discus.”
Farr is extremely close to her family and going away to North Carolina will be difficult.
“Honestly, I’m having really mixed emotions about that,” she said. “It’s a nine-hour drive. I’m really independent, though. I know I will be able to handle. I’m so free-spirited and I know I will have a team behind me.
“Being away from my family will be extremely hard. They encouraged me to follow my dreams and not let people hold me back.”
Deneen Gollon, however, isn’t going to like that kind of separation much.
“She’s getting a lot better,” Farr said. “But I know she will be trying to stay just a little bit longer when they drop me off.”
Gollon, who fought a battle with kidney cancer but has been free of the disease for about 20 months, has been a source of inspiration for Farr.
“Throughout her fight, she always had a positive attitude,” Farr said. “That reflected back on all of us. She taught me, even with cancer, you never give up. Giving up will not get you anywhere. If she gave up, she’d never be here today.”
Having competed under a number of great coaches through the years in all of her sports has made Farr ready for being a college athlete.
“All of my coaches have truly been amazing,” Farr said. “They taught me giving up is never an option and if I work hard enough, I can reach my goals.
“(Legendary Jefferson girls basketball coach Rod) Holmes is an awesome coach. We sat down and talked my future. He always showed me support and always pushed me that extra step. That was a life lesson. He never gave up on me, even though I know he wanted to at times.
“I’m really thankful for all the coaches I’ve had.”
There was another coach Farr looked up to along the way.
“To be honest, my stepdad taught me since I was little in all of my sports,” she said. “That’s him. I always hear him in the stands. I couldn’t see myself being an athlete without his support.”
Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.