Faces of UCM: Eli Leavell


Written by Muleskinner Staff

Eli Leavell

News Editor

(WARRENSBURG, Mo., digitalBURG) — Eli Leavell has an unbreakable competitive spirit. His foot on the other hand, is very breakable.

He is dealing with a fractured foot for the third time. Leavell decided to undergo surgery Wednesday, Sept. 7, in an attempt to keep his foot in one piece in the future.

He said the placement of his fracture is common and that once it breaks it will continue to break over and over, which is why he has to get a screw put in to avoid future breaks. Leavell said it’s unlikely he’ll break his foot again in the same spot post-surgery, and that he’s decided to do the more extensive procedure in hopes of a better, long-term outcome.

Leavell is on the track team at UCM and said he wants to get back to training as quickly as possible without skipping any steps in the healing process.

His first two breaks happened because of track-related injuries during his freshman season at UCM, the second break happening in the middle of a jump.

This fracture came as a surprise during a team-bonding experience.

“We took a day off, and we were just kind of going to play a game of ultimate Frisbee so that way everybody would get to know people, and it was building some camaraderie,” Leavell said. “At a walking pace I turned around and leaned on my foot wrong and heard a pop. And, just like that, it was broken.”

Leavell said the second time he fractured his foot, he had come back too soon off his first injury and while he wants to get back to running more than anything, he knows he has to do things the right way.

“I take everything as a competition,” Leavell said. “I want to get out of this as fast as I can. That’s doing it the right way obviously, not skipping steps or anything.”

Leavell said that although he loves running track, he knows he has to heal from his injury first.

“I’m going to do it, and I’m going to do it faster than anybody else has,” Leavell said. “It’s that mentality that keeps me going. I mean, not everything is a competition, but it can be seen that way, which keeps you ambitious, keeps you driven.”

A competitive nature comes naturally to Leavell now, but he said it first started to develop when he was adopted at 13 by his uncle and his uncle’s partner. He said his life changed drastically after his adoption when he suddenly had parental support that he’d never experienced before. He had grown up in an abusive household with his biological parents.

“Not only has it changed my life for the better, it’s given me character,” Leavell said. “The bad stuff has really given me character because I learned how to deal with trauma, deal with things like that. Actually having a support system, having somebody there for you, it helps drastically. It’s one of the reasons why I’m able to do what I’m able to do.”

When he was adopted, he started taking karate lessons with the support of his new parents, which sparked his interest in athletics and helped him find his way. He earned his black belt in four years, and now he teaches karate to kids when he goes home to Blue Springs, Missouri. Leavell said he likes the discipline in karate because it helped ground him when he dealt with problems and changes as a kid.

“It was something that gave me a purpose, something that I was good at, something that kept me steady,” he said.

Karate allowed him to grow in skills and confidence. The confidence he built became engrained in him, and he carried it with him into other parts of his life, like school and sports.

“Yes, I may have gone through hell in the past, and there are different things that have really been negative for me,” Leavell said. “But, I really wouldn’t change a thing because of the people I’ve met, the abilities and opportunities that I’ve been presented with in my life.

“I went from not having the most supportive family to having all the support in the world. It really speaks to me that no matter what’s happening or what you’re going through, there’s always a positive thing so just be thankful.”

Leavell’s grandmother also had a big impact on him in the five years he knew her, before she died from Lou Gehrig’s disease.

“She was supposed to live for two years,” Leavell said. “The doctors told her she might make it two years. The worst case scenario was six months. Five years later, she was still going. She just, no matter what, would not give up. She was also a very competitive spirit. That even carried into her illness. She just would not give up.”

He said his grandmother had several different gadgets that she used to help her deal with ALS, including a computer she talked to and a special bed that helped prevent bed sores.

Those technological things that make people’s lives easier coupled with his grandmother’s life experiences inspire him to continue his education and attempt to help people in his own way. He wants to go to medical school after graduating from UCM in order to pursue a career in biomechanics, developing prosthetics.

For now, Leavell said he’s focusing on overcoming his current injury and getting back to training.

“I try to stay very ambitious and very positive just because there is always going to be something in your way and you’ve got to try to get past it,” he said. “For me, I’ve had a lot of that in my life, so it’s just kind of been drilled into me.”