FREEBURG — Abby Lealaimatafao dreams of one day attending the U.S. Naval Academy, then exploring space as an astronaut.
Lofty goals? Perhaps.
But for the Freeburg High School junior, setting goals, then working hard to achieve them is what pushes Lealaimatafao to be the best in the classroom and in her athletic pursuits.
As a member of the Freeburg girls track and field team, Lealaimatafao throws the shot put and last year placed ninth in the event at the Class 2A state track meet.
But competing in the shot put is only the beginning. Lealaimatafao owns a rare combination of power, speed and agility who, in addition to being one of the best in the state, also runs on the Midgets' 400- and 1,600-meter relays and also competes in the long jump and triple jump.
With a rare athletic ability to compete in so many events, Lealaimatafao hopes to be a heptahthete in college. The heptathlon is a seven-event competition held over two days in most cases.
"That's my goal. I'd like to compete in the heptathlon in college,'' Lealaimatafao said. "I don't know where my ability to compete in so many events really comes from. I basically did the same events in grade school and I liked that I could pretty much do everything.
"It's not hard to focus going from event to event anymore because I've done it for so long. It's just interesting to do different events. I try to do my best in each one."
Her best has been good enough to rank Lealaimatafao among the best in the Cahokia Conference for the last three years. She has a top throw of 37-feet, 2-inches in the shot put, has jumped 15-9 in the long jump and has a triple jump of 33-6.
She also has turned a 61-second split as a member of the Midgets' 1,600 relay.
Her versatility is a comforting thought to second-year Freeburg coach J.R. Brentlinger.
"Abby is a great kid. She has the talent, drive and determination to be successful in almost any event,'' Brentlinger said. "Her best event has always been the shot put. However, her performance in the 4x400 has been very strong.
"Having many different events can be a challenge, but she takes it all in stride and has been able to improve in each event.''
The daughter of Tusi and Nancy Lealaimatafao, of St. Libory, Abby Lealaimatafao's athletic talent doesn't end on the track.
She led the Midgets' basketball team in scoring (10.4 points per game) and rebounds (8.6) and also played on their volleyball team.
Lealaimatafao's athletic background comes at least in part from her parents. Her mom played softball and volleyball at Freeburg and her dad, a native of Samoa, excelled in rugby in his youth.
Should Lealaimatafao become a heptahlete in college, she will be the second in four years from the Cahokia Conference.
Former Central High standout Jena Hemann is specializing in the event while attending Texas A&M.
"She's an incredible athlete,'' Lealaimatafao said of Hemann. "I talked to her a couple of times, because she was in some of my events in my freshman year.
"We really didn't talk about anything, but she was really nice.''
Like Hemann, who was a four-time state champ in the high jump, Lealaimatafao also has an event she can consider her specialty in the shot put.
Although not as big or powerful as many of her competitors, Lealaimatafao is able to use her desire and athletic ability to compete at a high level.
"I like the shot put. Simply because it's a challenge for me. Because there are so many strong girls,'' Lealaimatafao said. "I'm able to overcome the bigger, stronger girls with good technique.
"My coaches have worked hard on my technique and I feel that it has gotten better. I was ninth at state last year and we're hoping to improve this year. That's the goal.''
Lealaimatafao also is a member of the Freeburg High School student council, along with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Lealaimatafao said she just enjoys the challenge of multiple events.
"I get bored easily. So it's fun to be able to see how far I'm able to push myself in a different event,'' Lealaimatafao said. "Competing in so many events? It's tough. Sometimes it can be really stressful.
"It's not bad, though. I've gotten pretty used to it.''