Bellwood-Antis graduate Brian Leap will be performing on the NCAA's biggest stage Saturday when he competes in the triple jump championship.
"It's my first time going to nationals, and I'm just happy to be here," said Leap, a junior at Penn State University. "I just want to improve on my lifetime best and maybe get second-team All-American honors."
Leap is seeded 23rd out of 24 runners who qualified for the event after jumping 15.58 meters in the Eastern preliminary round. Fellow Penn State jumper Steve Waithe is seeded fifth after jumping a 16.06.
"Going into the preliminaries, I was confident," Leap said. "It's probably the biggest accomplishment I've ever had athletically in my life, and it's pretty exciting."
Leap jumped a lifetime-best of 15.63 to finish third in the Big Ten championships.
"For him to make nationals is a culmination of his hard work and dedication and development here since he's been at Penn State," Penn State assistant track and field coach Kevin Kelly said. "He's one of the hardest working kids we have here, and he's been on a roll since the Big Ten (championships), and he made it through to the national meet, so it's pretty impressive.
"He's a competitor, and he usually rises to the occasion. I think the goal will be for him to have his best jump ever, and that could put him in the mix."
Leap was the Nittany Lions' top jumper a year ago but had struggled in the middle of the season before rebounding late.
"I've been patient and working on the first phase of my triple jump and focusing on the technical parts and working on my speed," Leap said. "It was kind of frustrating throughout the year, but things came around in the conference championships.
"My teammates said if I keep knocking on the door, it's going to come down eventually, and that's what happened."