By day, Megan Leatham spends her time organizing a world-renowned climb. Her late afternoons and evenings consist of planning and executing a much different kind of ascent.
The executive director of operations for the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb and 2002 Air Academy graduate has the Rampart girls’ basketball team looking skyward. In her third year in charge, Rampart (8-5) is easily ahead of pace to improve on consecutive 10-win seasons as it opens 5A Metro League play Tuesday against defending champion Palmer (11-2).
There’s plenty about Leatham’s day job that translates to the basketball court.
“Every day is different,” Leatham said. “Learning from my professional experience, you have to adjust on the fly. That’s important in event management and even more important in coaching. Coaching is making instinctual decisions within a second. You have to.”
Her squad has taken to Leatham’s energetic and feisty approach to the court, where the Rams’ defense has not allowed more than 60 points and averages 11.1 steals.
“Her energy picks up the team and helps us get going,” junior Lucia Archuleta said. “She comes to practice like she’s a player, and she’s ready to go. We feed off that.”
Leatham, a graduate of Whitman College in Walla Walla, Wash., earned the Rampart job prior to the 2010-11 season after one year coaching the Air Academy C-squad. The task was daunting: revive an 8-16 program, one year removed from back-to-back 15-win seasons.
At 10-13 in her debut, she saw the pieces coming together. One season later, progress came in the form of achievements but not necessarily victories as the team went 10-14. Now, the climb continues as she slowly changes the culture from accepting mediocrity to expecting to win.
“Wherever you go, it takes time to build a program,” Leatham said. “I give full credit to my players. The buy-in has been phenomenal, and it makes it easier when the kids buy into a philosophy. We want to be better than yesterday. That’s how I coach the team.”
Her players are the first to reflect that culture change.
“As a captain, my job is to put our team in a winning mentality,” senior guard Megan Kavalec said. “Sometimes, we had a tendency to play not to lose. Now, we have the mentality of playing to win. We’re way mentally stronger thanks to Coach Megan.”
While Leatham radiates excessive amounts of energy, she couldn’t do it without someone who truly understands how she ticks: Brian, her husband since 2009.
As the former junior varsity coach, Brian’s familiarity with the program gives Rampart the feel of a family, not just a collection of students who come to practice after school.
“We trust one another and have each others’ backs,” Archuleta said. “That’s what’s contributing to our winning record. We’re building a family first, and that’s why we work so hard.”
For Brian, the basketball atmosphere sometimes gets saturated, but he tries not to complain too much.
“The two of us live, eat and breathe basketball constantly,” said Brian, a history teacher at Jenkins Middle School. “Every now and then, I have to remind her that there are other things besides basketball and for the conversation to go in other directions. That said, I love my job, working with my wife and with kids in the classroom and in a different setting as a coach.”