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Julie Leach, Millennium Hall of Fame

November 24, 1999

Among the original Title IX athletes in the CIF Southern Section in

1974, Julie Leach has been able to endure like good wine on Thanksgiving.

After 25 years, she's still one of the best kayakers, runners, cyclists,

swimmers, paddlers and field hockey players of all time -- and just about

any other sport you'd like to toss in there.

When kayaking came her way, Leach was good enough to go solo and qualify

for the 1976 Montreal Olympics -- one year out of high school, where some

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Corona del Mar classmates would ask, "Why do you want your arms to be so

big? They're going to stay that way and maybe atrophy as you get older."

Leach (nee Jones) had a simple answer for them: "I wanted to go to the

Olympics and (weightlifting) is what I needed to do."

The only girl in the CdM weight room her sophomore year, Leach later ran

a marathon in 3 hours 2 minutes in the late 1970s, the 20th-best mark in

the nation at the time for women; won a world championship in her only

appearance at the Hawaiian Ironman Triathlon in October 1982; and became an outrigger canoe champion in the mid-80s.

Today, Leach bodyboards near a somewhat secluded reef point in Newport

Beach and jogs about four days a week to keep her 42-year-old frame

solid.

But before the gender equality-based ruling in 1974 that is Title IX,

physical discipline among females for athletic prowess was as foreign as

Internet chat rooms in a disco. When Leach entered high school, the

informal Girls Athletic Association had no scorebooks, playoffs or

uniforms. "It wasn't real competitive or anything," she said.

By her senior year, field hockey was a CIF-sanctioned sport and Leach

tried it as a "novelty," but at the time she was training hard in the

kayak for the Montreal Games -- 11 years before Newport Aquatic Center

opened.

A pioneer of many sorts, Leach was rowing in single kayaks at a

world-class level when Newport-Mesa District girls first realized

athletic freedom.

CdM teacher Bill Leach, who coached a kayak club, was her inspiration

into the sport and later became her husband. "I was very determined to

succeed in kayaking," said Leach, who graduated from CdM in 1975, married

Bill four months later and then finished seventh in the K-1 medal race at

the '76 Games, as Mr. and Mrs. Leach performed as a rare husband-and-wife

tandem in the same Olympiad (Bill Leach competed in the men's K-2).

Julie Leach, who grew up sailing, loved the ocean and felt a special

"oneness with the water," and, frankly, didn't care if her shoulders

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