By Thomas Walter
For The Daily Item
Bucknell University senior Leonard Joseph has created his own path in this world.
Joseph is going to Xavier University next year to pursue his master’s degree in industrial psychology. While he still has half of a semester left at Bucknell, when he leaves in May it will be as one of the most decorated track and field athletes in Bucknell history. He ranks first in the hammer throw, fourth in the weight throw, and seventh in discus. He has won three individual Patriot League Championships and earned Honorable Mention All-America accolades.
And to think that, at one point in his life, the possibility attending Bucknell, or any other university, was slim to none.
“I’ve been self-sufficient since I was 10 years old,” said Joseph. “Because of the way I was living at home it was necessary for me to be able to take care of myself.”
Prior to his senior year of high school, due to circumstances that Joseph chooses not to dwell on, he was forced to move into his aunt’s basement in Whitesboro, N.Y. This meant changing school districts. Despite the life-altering change, Joseph continued to excel in athletics and began to attract the attention of colleges.
He played football and competed on the track and field team in high school. He holds the school record in discus at both Whitesboro and Clinton high schools, was named track team’s MVP as a senior and placed seventh in the hammer throw at the 2010 USATF Junior National Championships.
It was through his achievements that Joseph came to know Richard Hunt, Clinton High School principal. When Hunt first came to meet Joseph and his family, he noticed Joseph was living in the basement. The principal proceeded to buy his newest student a dehumidifier to make the difficult living situation a little easier.
“When he bought me the dehumidifier it showed me that he was not just the average principal,” says Joseph. “He took a special interest in the students who were disadvantaged. Ever since then he has been a supporting figure in my life and I would not be at Bucknell without his help.”
Finally, after seemingly ignoring him for so long, good fortune had finally found Joseph.
Upon arriving at Bucknell, Joseph immediately began to dominate. He placed third in the discus and fourth in the hammer throw during the Patriot League Outdoor Track & Field Championships in his freshman year. Originally recruited by Bucknell as a discus thrower, he was convinced by Bucknell’s assistant coach Bob Schanbacher to focus primarily on the hammer.
Schanbacher has turned out to be another role model from whom Joseph has learned much. In addition to the coaching aspect, Schanbacher has helped Joseph away from competition as well.
“When I got to Bucknell I noticed he liked to develop his athletes beyond the skills needed to compete,” Joseph remembers. “He wanted to take care of me and teach me things that I could not learn at home that extend beyond academia and athletics.”
Schanbacher, however, believes that Joseph’s growth off and on the field comes from his own determination.
“Lenny is an athlete that has had extremely high goals from the start,” Schanbacher said. “He is very driven to accomplish things, and he is able to focus very intently on what he does. He is the same way academically as well.”
Joseph has been a consistent member of Bucknell’s Dean’s List and Patriot League Academic Honor Roll. From 2011-12, he was member of the USTFCCCA All-Academic Track and Field Team.
Joseph’s skill set has allowed Schanbacher to help teach and mold Joseph into one of the strongest throwers in Bucknell history.
Joseph has become a physical specimen, something Schanbacher believes is necessary in order to compete in the hammer throw. But in an event that requires precise timing and extreme repetition, it is Joseph’s commitment to detail and technique that sets him apart.
“He takes the information you give him and is able to put it into motion language faster than anyone,” Schanbacher explains. “He is more adaptable than most.”
“First and foremost, I want to be an All-American. Second, based on where I am with projections, I hope to break the school record,” said Joseph, who broke the hammer mark Sunday at the Bison Outdoor Classic.
Joseph’s throw of 209 feet, 11 inches earned first place; he was the only competitor in the field to break 200 feet. He eclipsed the Bison record of 209-3 held by James Heizman since 1996.
“In some ways goals limit you; I don’t like dealing with goals,” said Schanbacher. “Lenny has all the answers. I have just given him some of the tools. But I do have a feeling Lenny is going to have a pretty good season.”
To reach his goal, Joseph will have to work hard to improve on a 17th-place finish at the NCAA Championships last year, but hard work is something Joseph has embraced all his life. He has not had the luxury to slack, and he is not about to start now.
While the memories of the past may always be with him, Joseph has shown that he has enough fortitude to deal with anything that comes his way. He also knows that when faced with trying times the tools he has learned from the hammer throw — hard work and attention to detail — can go a long way to finding success.
Considering all Joseph has been through and what he has accomplished, some may say he has already found it.