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Leah Gannon takes hoops dream to Rocky Mountain College

 

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Fort Benton's two-star standout, Leah Gannon, signed an NAIA letter of intent to play basketball at Rocky Mountain College last week. She was a two-time All-State selection with the Longhorns and could also run track at Rocky, as well.

The Fort Benton Longhorns have a rich history of success in athletics. Recently, much of that success has come in girls basketball and track and one athlete who has been an integral part of that is Leah Gannon.

Gannon is a senior for Fort Benton and she is getting ready to compete in her fourth Northern C Divisional track meet this afternoon in Great Falls and if everything goes as planned, she will be heading to the Class C state track meet again in multiple events.

Yet, as good as Gannon is as a track-and-field athlete, a sport where she has been part of state championships, when she signed an NAIA national letter of intent last week, she signed to play basketball for Rocky Mountain College of the Frontier Conference.

"It's a great feeling," Gannon said. "When I first started playing basketball and doing track, I wasn't really thinking about doing it in college. My coach talked to me about it and then when I was a junior, I started to get more serious and filled out some recruiting forms and it just feels nice to have that decision made."

Whether it's on the basketball court or on the track, Gannon is a proven winner. In basketball, she played a key role in a stellar four-year run for the Longhorns that includes two District 9C tournament championships and three trips to the Northern C Divisional tournament in Great Falls.

As a freshman, Gannon earned her way into the lineup for a team that won the 9C title in 2015. The Longhorns wound up finishing fourth that season at districts and Gannon earned Second-Team All-Conference honors.

As a sophomore, she took a big step forward and so did her team as the Longhorns made it back to the District 9C championship game, which earned them a trip to divisionals. Gannon also earned Class C All-State honors for the first time after averaging 12 points per game. At the Northern C, the Longhorns finished third and essentially came up one win short of reaching the state tournament.

As a junior, Gannon, who is a productive player on both ends of the floor, ranking as one of the top defenders in the 9C for the past four seasons, earned All-State honors again as Fort Benton captured the first of back-to-back District 9C championships.

Yet, it was clear right away that Gannon's talents weren't just limited to the basketball court. As a freshman, Gannon showed off her athletic ability by finishing third in the 400-meter dash at the Class C state meet, as well as sixth in the 200. During her sophomore season, she also placed in four different events at state in track and was part of a Fort Benton team that captured the Class C state championship, as well as the 2018 team, which finished as the runner-up.

Even though the Longhorns finished second as a team at state a year ago, Gannon still left as a state champion, being part of the Longhorns 400-meter relay and 1,600 relay teams that both won state championships. She also finished third in the 800 to go along with fifth-place finishes in the long jump and 400.

Last week, in her final District 9C track meet in Havre, Gannon put on a show, winning the 400, the 800 and long jump, and helping both relay teams to victory mean she helped score 50 points as the Longhorns won their third-straight 9C track title.

"I had some other track coaches talk to me and I had some track offers," Gannon said. "But I wanted to play basketball."

The Battlin' Bears offered her that opportunity, although since Rocky Mountain College also has a track program, Gannon could potentially do both.

"The Rocky track coach (Mike McLean) talked to me about doing track, too," Gannon said. "But I am not sure about doing two sports at once in college."

Gannon, who will be pursuing a degree in chemistry, potentially to work as a pharmacist, said that although she may not choose to be a two-sport athlete, playing multiple sports in high school helped her get recruited.

"I think it helped me get noticed," Gannon said. "I also think that track helps in other sports and that was a big thing for me. It helped me a lot."

Now, Gannon has two track meets left - the Northern C this afternoon in Great Falls - and the Class C state meet next weekend in Laurel.

After adding what Gannon hopes to be at least another state championship or two in the relay events, although the Montana Track website has the Longhorns projected to finished second and third in those respective events - as well as third in the team race - her track career may be over.

Soon though, Gannon can shift her focus to basketball, the sport she said she prefers and the one she is looking to play at the next level in the Frontier Conference.

"I am just excited to get to work and keep trying to improve," Gannon said. "I like the school and the coaching staff and the other players. It just felt like a good fit and I am just relieved to know where I am going."

 

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